Batman and Robin. Frodo and Bilbo. Amy Poehler and Tina Fey.
Many stories of success, fictional and real, feature not a lone hero, but a dynamic duo. And yes, you might be an entrepreneurial superhero growing your business through the sheer strength of your own bulging muscles, but the best way to climb to the top is to have someone alongside you, someone who can give you a boost.
That’s what strategic relationships—or partnerships—are for. But how does one go about forming—and then nurturing—that partner relationship? It’s something we at Infusionsoft have always valued, but it’s something we’re still working on, so we’re going to share our insights and missteps in the hopes that they’ll make you stronger. So I went to the person in our building who handles partnerships as his job: Jeff Mask, VP of partner development.
What you need
Much like personal relationships, there are some things you need to know about who you are and things to have in place in order to be a quality partner, because good partnerships are about mutual giving, and to give, you have to be in a good place yourself.
Some things to think about for potential partners: similar goals and strategies, potential risks, and business compatibility.
You must know what your business is and who your target is, otherwise you’ll have a much more difficult time not only finding the right partner match, but also making it a successful match.
Having people in place to foster relationships is vital, and that doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to go out and hire more people. What it means is that you should look to leverage the genius of other people for mutual benefit. You’ve got to know when to look outside your own brain.
Being a partner is all about giving; being selfish will end any relationship quickly. So as you form and foster your partnerships, be ready with all the things you can bring to the table for them. It will make you a much more attractive partner prospect, not to mention a longer-term partner.
Find those partnerships
As an entrepreneur, finding and forming partnerships is in some ways simpler than if you were a larger company, while at the same time more difficult in other ways. On one hand, you’re agile; on the other hand, you have a long, sometimes less straightforward search process.
A large part of finding a partner will come down to extensive and effective networking with people who have businesses in complementary—not identical—fields. It will also involve a lot of research, as your ideal partner may not be located in the same city or geographical region as you, but social media is a great place to start those relationships and grow them from there.
Why you should form partnerships
Entrepreneurs are a very independent bunch and it can be easy to fall into the mental trap of thinking that everything in your business is up to you and that no one understands the burden like you do. But the Do-It-Yourself spiral is a self-deception; you can grow far better and faster with a sidekick.
Learn from us
All the things above, we’re working on. Infusionsoft has a lot of partners, and we truly do want to see them succeed, but we haven’t always created the best environment for that. Jeff acknowledges this, and he agreed that sharing our work is a great way for other entrepreneurs to learn from our experiences.
Aim for mutual success
We’ve always been invested in the success of our partners, but we didn’t always do everything we could to foster it.
If you want to increase the odds of your success, you should strive to make sure your partners become successful. Think of it this way: By truly engaging in a partner’s success, you show that you’re a good partner, and when a partner is successful, they have the resources to help you succeed. If your partner isn’t successful, they’re not going to have the resources to help make you successful. Done the right way, it’s the epitome of a win-win situation.
We believe in this so much that helping our partners succeed actually became a company-wide annual priority.
Optimize your product
For example, we know that having a good product that keeps getting better is key to making our partners’ jobs easier. And when we have a software release that doesn’t go as smoothly as we’d planned, well, it doesn’t help our partners. This means we’re putting more work into smooth releases – and it means you should always be working to ensure that your product is the best it can be.
Your partners need to feel valued, and the best way to do that is through open, clear communication. As a good partner, you should aim to make it easy for them to know what to do to be successful, especially if they act as resellers of your product. Be ready to help them learn how to market and sell themselves and their businesses.
But you also need to be available to them when there are bumps in the road or questions about what to do. If you have a large number of partners, make sure they know who at your company they should communicate with, and if you have a change in personnel, that change needs to be quickly and clearly communicated.
We have definitely dealt with this problem—partners don’t always know where to go to ask about product features or to provide feedback. It’s an issue we’re currently working to address, but at the same time, we’re working to let our partners know that we are aware of the problem and are actively working to fix it by investing in more people to communicate with partners.
Remember: you don’t have to do it all yourself. While you will need to invest significant energy and time in finding a partner and growing your business alongside them, the payoffs will be far greater than what you can achieve alone.