While many of us who start our own businesses or who become solo professionals value our independence, we quickly find more value in having people at our side to give us extra strength, visibility and insight in the market.
In last week’s post, I touched on the power of referral partnerships. These are collaborations you can create with other entrepreneurs, professional service providers or small businesses owners that can open up a whole pipeline of new business for the both of you and strengthen your respective brands.
Picking the right referral partners
Here are six criteria to consider:
Adjacent expertise. The partnership will have more potential if there is a natural connection between your products and services, if one leads logically into the other, or if one fills in a critical missing piece. For example, for a time in my strategy consulting company, I partnered with a marketing consultant who wrote business plans but needed someone who was strong in business strategy but also had financial expertise to build financial models and develop financial projections.
Similar market. The power of the partnership comes from applying your combined efforts to reach the same audience. By bundling your products and services you offer a more complete and attractive solution for a market that doesn’t want to pull all the pieces together themselves. In addition, as a team, you may even be able to penetrate new markets more quickly and more effectively.
Similar values. Everyone wants to make money, but you should be in sync on how you want to do it. Whichever end of the spectrum you each typically operate in—high-touch, high level of service vs. non-customized, mass service—you should both be on the same side overall to help minimize potential conflicts in the partnership.
Similar sense of urgency. How good are both of you with deadlines? Are you both disciplined? If something needs to be done by next week, will you both work on your respective pieces to make sure it gets done? Or are you both pretty low-key? That’s fine too, but being mismatched in this area will lead to a lot of frustration as one partner will feel that the other isn’t pulling his or her own weight.
Similar sense of importance. Is the partnership of equal priority to both of you or does one have more at stake than the other? If this is a top priority for you, but much lower down on your partner’s list, you may end up taking on a greater workload to get things done. You might be okay with this, but just be sure to discuss it upfront so expectations are clear.
Similar levels of (im)perfectionism. If you’re both on the same side of the scale of perfectionism/imperfectionism, the partnership can be successful. But if you’re someone who likes to plan very carefully while your partner is ready to take action no matter how imperfect, you’ll have a difficult time getting anything off the ground.
Have a candid discussion
It’s so easy to get swept up in the excitement of a new partnership at the beginning, but before you decide to work together, have a candid discussion about each of the items above. You’ll gain valuable information about each other’s work style, and perhaps even learn some new things about yourself. But more importantly, you’ll develop a deeper connection, more trust and even a greater vision of how you could take the partnership further.
Liz Lynch is founder of the Center for Networking Excellence and author of Smart Networking: Attract a Following In Person and Online (McGraw-Hill, 2008). She writes, speaks and consults to experienced professionals on how to seamlessly integrate social media and traditional networking to save time and accelerate results.