No man is an island, and neither is any business. When we start out in our business, chances are we’re doing every job – from janitor to customer service rep to CEO. That’s a great start so that you can get a good idea of what it actually takes to run your business in every department, but eventually, you will build your business to the point that it has steady cash flow and realize that you don’t own the business – it owns you. This is when having strategic relationships becomes vital for the survival and growth of the business.
So why partner up with anyone? There are three main reasons that I tell my clients who are at this point: to create leverage, to grow, and to get your time back. As a business owner, you want to be freed up to spend time brainstorming and strategizing to grow your business even more. You don’t want to be bogged down by the daily minutiae required to keep the business afloat.
When you get to this point, here’s a great exercise to generate beneficial partnerships with ease:
Keep it simple by thinking of your business and, “Who else is going after my clients?” If you’re drawing a blank, call your clients and ask them what vendors they use for things like internet service, bookkeeping, marketing, etc. Write those down as people/businesses to connect with.
– Ask your current client if they will do an email introduction with the people/vendors they’ve recommended. This opens the door to conversing with them as a possible partner.
– Add these new contacts via SM (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter) and visit their website to learn more about them. This will help you narrow down to prospects that best fit you.
– Send the best prospects an email to introduce yourself and ask if they’d be interested in a coffee meeting to discuss a possible partnership.
– Before that meeting, create a list of open-ended questions based on info you know or want to know about them. Here’s a few example questions:
– Do you have a partnership with anyone who does what I do?
– What struggles do you find common with your clients/customers?
– What needs or gaps do your services/products fill for them?
– Can you think of anyone off the top of your head that I would be able to help? Why or why not?
As you go through this process, remember that you are looking for a relationship that fits like a glove. You’re not looking for a competitor but someone who compliments your goal/market. Be interested in long-term growth over short-term results with these relationships – the right partnership could equal millions of dollars in sales for both parties!
Before getting into the specific steps, it’s important for you to know one thing: this is not a simple, five-minute process. It is also not a set-it-and-forget-it type of process. As you grow, your goals will change, and thus, your strategy will need to change. As a starting point, I suggest you set two blocks of time – each 2-3 hours long and one more than a few days apart – to really get this plan nailed down. If you aren’t willing to spend this time, then you aren’t willing to actually reach your goals, and this article isn’t for you.
For the first session, what you’ll want to do is some brainstorming. You’ll have several questions to answer and lots of freedom to dream big.
Start with your numbers. Ask what you want your yearly revenue to be and then break it up by month. For example, $400,000/yr in revenue is $33,333/month.
Look at what you currently do for revenue streams. For example, product sales, client coaching, and speaking engagements. Anything that currently brings in money for your business. Break down how much you are currently bringing in for each AND how much you’d like to bring in for each.
Important note: At this point, do not worry about HOW you will achieve any of the goals you set down – just think about what you want and write it down!
Ask yourself several questions, such as:
– What am I taking into this plan that has worked for me so far?
– What hasn’t worked or haven’t I enjoyed that needs to be removed?
– What do I want to try?
– What limitations do I think I have right now, and what might I be able to do to remove them?
After brainstorming what you want, you can work on how to get there. This will be the bulk of session two and involves more specific questions.
Ask if you have the skill set to do what you need to reach the goal. For example, do you have the skill set to give killer front-of-room speeches so that vendors book you and you can reach your speaking engagement revenue goal?
If not, you need to do some homework to fix that. Here’s my suggestion: read five books, watch 2 or 3 webinars, attend 2 or 3 workshops, and/or get a coach to help you become an expert quickly.
If there are limitations like, “I don’t have time,” then you must consider how to make time. Perhaps getting an admin or virtual assistant.
Consider these questions:
– What can I bring to the marketplace that people want?
– Am I passionate enough about it to do it for free? (You may need to at first to get some experience and testimonials.)
Reflect on the year before. Make a list of what you are most proud of, what you were most surprised by, and in what ways you grew. This will help guide you through the coming year as you work to achieve your goals.
These steps will help you craft a plan that reflects your goals, dreams, and values. Then, it is up to you to DO THE WORK and make it happen!
Here’s to your success!