Strategic partnerships should be every entrepreneur’s priority right now to expand their customer base and strengthen their business against COVID-19 and Brexit.
In the current climate, businesses need to be smarter and more agile than ever. Entrepreneurs have faced some of the hardest challenges of their careers over the past six months, whether that was related to diminished demand, compromised supply chains or cash flow problems. With coronavirus cases on the rise again and Brexit looming, joining forces with other businesses could bring you greater success much sooner to overcome these obstacles.
Strategic partnerships open up your reach and can help catalyse innovation. By working together for mutual aims, you stand to achieve better results earlier and with less expense than if you tried alone.
In fact, a study by the Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute found that collaborating with your competition for three to five years gives both businesses a more than 50% chance of mutually reducing company costs. Saving money on shared expenses and resources is a shrewd way to reach your goals in a shorter time frame and one of the key benefits of a well-chosen strategic partnership.
Partnerships in business are all about discovery – whether that means being discovered yourself through someone else’s network or creating a new product together, you’re both doing this to grow. I’m a big believer in the power of partnership and commercial collaboration in practice as much as in theory. At MarketFinance, I’ve seen first-hand how working with the right strategic partners can help both sides. Key to this is finding a partner whose culture and vision, throughout the entire organisation, aligns with your own.
Just over 18 months ago, we partnered with Barclays Bank UK: we offer their SME customers fast and accessible funding without going through the usual rigmarole of traditional lenders, and they offer us access to those businesses we can support on a national level. Increasing our reach through this partnership means we can support regional industry. It works for us both because we have a common goal (in this case, helping small businesses succeed). Focusing on what brings you together is one of the keys to a successful strategic partnership.
To grow through mutually beneficial business partnerships, you need to pick the right partner, and it’s important that they complement your offering in expertise and scope. You want to make sure you’ll both benefit equally and that neither business concedes what makes them unique.
Be precise and scrupulous in your research and awareness of the market you operate in. Don’t lose focus of what you offer that sets you apart: it’s why you’re approaching other businesses, so make sure you retain those USPs.
Ultimately, both parties need to bring something to the table that the other couldn’t quickly or financially secure alone. Think about what you need to achieve and whether it’s a shared interest to pursue. If it’s something that requires a lot of investment of time or resources, consider which of your competitors would stand to benefit too and propose sharing the burden.
Exploring a partner’s knowledge and skills can allow you to facilitate research of new products. Even Apple has their screens supplied by Samsung, and Microsoft developed their Office products for Mac because there was market demand. Although you may be competing for market share, by collaborating, you’re both able to make the end result much stronger.
To make a partnership successful once it’s agreed, be clear about what you’re both expecting from the outcome and where control will sit. Having a shared objective is the basis of collaborating, but things can fall apart without proper targets and clearly defined processes. Being up front and open will help you avoid misunderstandings and prioritise your objectives.
Being ambitious is of course important in business, but you’ll achieve your dreams faster when you question whether you can achieve them alone. Partnerships that allow complementary growth through shared costs and target markets could be key to the success of your business right now – provided you choose the right partner.
About the Author
Anil co-founded MarketFinance in 2011 and has led the growth of the company since launch. Whilst working in financial services in his early twenties and spending time with many company CFOs, Anil realised how difficult it was for small businesses to raise the funding they needed to drive their business forward. His ambition is to use technology and data to completely reinvent how businesses go about financing their growth, and breathe fresh life into outdated financial products.
Anil is on the UK government-backed UK FinTech Delivery Panel to drive policy recommendations for the industry. He is a keen commentator on fintech, banking, business finance and entrepreneurship. Anil read Economics at Cambridge University in 2006. He is a passionate traveller and avid reader.
Source: Elite Business Magazine, October 2020.