Five Guiding Principles To Help You Close A Deal (Even During A Global Pandemic)

Choosing the right partner is the most important aspect of closing a large deal, whether it's a partnership, investment or acquisition.

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Over the last five years, my entrepreneurial journey has been a rollercoaster ride. And I wouldn’t have been able to do it alone, without the support of family, friends, colleagues and of course, budding entrepreneurs, who advised and guided me endlessly throughout my ups and downs. As such, I am a firm believer of sharing one’s experiences- not only to help others avoid making the same mistakes that I did, which is part of the growth process, but to save them time and money, both of which are scarce resources in the early journey of any entrepreneur.

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I have always dedicated time to make myself accessible to young entrepreneurs who are starting out on their exciting adventures, and could do with an old man’s advice- although, okay, I’m not that old! But this is the first time that I actually put pen to paper and share my thoughts to potentially guide and inspire others. So, I would like to share with you a recent experience of mine and the team at Mr Usta in closing the largest partnership in our five-year history- a deal with the Majid Al Futtaim Group (MAF), a company that hopefully needs no introduction.

Spoiler alert: this is about a new business relationship and partnership. Apologies beforehand if it comes across as a love story, it’s hard not to draw connections with personal relationships- the principles are one and the same, at least most of them. So, if you are currently going through a break-up of sorts, don’t continue reading. Just kidding. Read on, and maybe you’ll be able to apply these principles in your quest for a new relationship, business, or otherwise.  

Early on in 2019, we started flirting with the idea of a partnership with MAF, one that would give us the boost we needed. After several rounds of meetings with key stakeholders, we quickly realized that there were many synergies between the two companies, and in many ways, we seem to have complemented each other. In all our meetings with MAF, we saw genuine interest in the partnership and their desire to go over and beyond for their customers- a value that is at the core of Mr Usta. Indeed, MAF’s objective continues to be centered around offering a full 360-degree-solution to their customers, and making sure that they have as great an after-sales experience as they do in purchasing the product through a MAF company.

Long story short, we went from meetings with teams at a group level, to presentations, to meetings with business unit teams, to trial periods, to due diligence, to legal discussions, in a process that took over a year. We went into granular detail every step of the way, and by the end of it all, we were even more aligned. I will not lie to you though- the process was probably the most stressful period of my entrepreneurial journey. At times, I felt like interest was lost, the deal was going to fall through, and that what started off as a promising idea was just my imagination. I was tested for patience, determination, and my ability to continue to lead and motivate the team who heard me say MAF more times than Dunia- my wife’s name.

I learned a great deal from this process, and I’d like to share with the community of entrepreneurs my five guiding principles to help anyone close a large deal, whether it’s a partnership, investment, or acquisition. Apply these principles, and you’ll hopefully come out on the other end with a positive result.

1. Choose the right partner Probably the most fundamental of all is making sure that the partner you choose is right for you, but that you’re also right for them. It’s always two-way. Always. In our early days, being eager and hungry to trial every partnership that came our way, we never said no, and from that, we learned that not all partnerships are created equal, and that not all partners will share the same objectives. So, it’s imperative to choose wisely, and then quickly to add value to their business, and them to yours, without having to spend to impress.

2. Identify an advocate on the other side There must be at least one person on the other side that believes and sees the potential in the partnership. Someone that will help passionately drive discussions internally, can easily explain the added value of your partnership, and can influence key stakeholders. Once you’ve identified that person, you’ll find the process moving much faster, and you’ll be faced with less hurdles along the way. 

3. Do your homework, and stay organized Make sure your business model, legal, and HR structures are very clear to you and others. Educate yourself, and get your hands dirty with legal contracts and finance, because you will be grilled to make sure you’re on top of your game and understand your business inside out. Apply discipline, and file everything right from the start, so you don’t have a backlog of years to do it all. And, in large partnership deals like ours, be prepared for a high level of due diligence, which is a painstaking exercise that will test you on so many levels.

4. Be patient, and stay focused A time might come when you don’t hear back for a few days, possibly weeks, because the other party is just too engaged in their own business, or the main stakeholders are traveling, or a pandemic decides to spread. When that time comes, be patient, stay confident and focuses on the bigger picture. Never lose hope, before you have a definitive “no.”

5. Be efficient and responsive Be as responsive 100 days into the discussions as you were on day 1. Don’t play hard to get, and get into the psyche of mind games. When the ball is in your court, respond quickly, when it’s in their court, follow up, and keep following up until you have feedback or clarity on next steps. Don’t be afraid to chase.

Related: How Your Business Can Survive The COVID-19 Crisis (And Then Thrive After It)

Ibrahim Colak

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Ibrahim Colak is the founder and CEO of mrUsta, an online marketplace that connects customers to trusted Ustas (services providers) efficiently, in a transparent and convenient way.