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How to Successfully Collaborate With a Larger Business Partner

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In the tech space, partnerships can go a long way to round out a product offer, speed time-to-market, or extend sales channels. It takes effort and attention to manage these relationships, especially if you are a smaller company dealing with a larger, established partner. The larger the brand, the more work we have to do in advance to demonstrate the value of the partnership.

Related: Six Strategies for Partnering with Big Brands

As CEO of MobiTV, I manage a company that provides back-end software solutions for a number of tier-one customers like AT&T, Sprint, Deutsche Telekom, Verizon and T-Mobile, among others. To service these customers, we need the right partners in place whether it be chipset partners, hardware makers, technology partners or others. These partnerships are often a key to our success.

Here are a few tips that have worked for us in building and fostering beneficial relationships with some of the tech industry's largest and most influential companies:

1. Demonstrate your value. To join forces with a major technology player, you must demonstrate how your product or service will help them gain more customers and revenue, enhance a current solution or device, etc.

We spend a lot of time marketing our products and services by attending industry tradeshows, participating on panel discussions, working with influencers and facilitating demonstrations so potential partners see and understand our worth. Even after you establish the business partnership, continuously evaluate how you can maximize value. That sets up your company for a prosperous, long-term collaboration.

2. Be patient, be flexible. Larger companies often have a robust infrastructure of approval points and displaced ownership of key decision-making. It is important to be flexible. Identify how to effectively work within the organizational structure of the larger partner, rather than asking them to bend their rules to work with you. Develop multiple layers of contact in their organization. Know that initiatives will not be developed and executed overnight, and it will take time to reach goals you have set for the partnership. The key is to be patient.

Related: Small Business, Big Clients

3. Make it 60/40. Your partner will expect more from you, and you should expect slightly less back. Give 60 percent of your time and efforts, expect to get 40 percent of theirs in return.

The 60/40 rule, which some have said is the key to a strong marriage, works well when handling partnerships. It helps you manage expectations and have a more realistic outlook for the relationship. It sometimes may mean that you end up with more operational control when it comes to a joint project, but also means you must be prepared to accept more accountability.

4. Know when to take credit. If you are providing an enterprise solution or part of a larger joint service through a partner, you have to accept that your brand may not get full recognition when it is marketed to a larger audience.

We collaborate to be included in external press releases, articles and industry events where we can showcase how our involvement in a partnership provided an enhanced product. We are also willing to step aside when needed. Remember, the goal of a collaboration is not receiving credit but enriching your business overall.

Related: Innovation: Small Businesses Live It, Big Businesses Buy It

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