The partnerships you make in your business can be your biggest blessing or your greatest curse; it just depends on how you approach them. By making the right alliances from the get-go – whether it’s a partner, employee or supplier – you can save yourself lots of time, trouble and money down the road.
Keep these tips in mind the next time you’re thinking about signing on with one of the following:
Signing on: A business partner
Think: Speed dating
If you think about it, selecting a business partner is actually pretty similar to choosing a life partner. You need to trust this person implicitly, ensuring a solid foundation for the rest of your business. He or she should have skills that complement your own, take care of your business when you’re not around and mesh well with you and your team. You might even “glow” when speaking about how great your partner is.
And, just like in any relationship, communication is key. Make your expectations clear and concise from the get-go. Write down the most important skill sets that can’t be outsourced or are difficult to hire for. Look for partners who help fill the void of these critical skills.
Signing on: A new employee
Think: Stacking hats and adding value
Valuable employees are versatile and can wear multiple hats. These are employees who have extra skill sets, like second languages or past experiences in multiple fields. Every employee should be making or saving you more money than they’re getting paid. Look for ones who can contribute to the team’s chemistry and bring a unique skill set that will add value to the company.
In addition, good employees are team players. You can trust them to take a task and run with it – no micromanaging required – with an intent that benefits the company. With that being said, you need to be aware of “superstar” employees who are only working for their own personal interests, which may conflict with the company’s goals.
Signing on: A supplier
Think: Trust, turnaround and a commitment to quality
When working with a new supplier, ask for payment terms to help with cash flow. Factor in their turnaround time — not only with your first run, but also if you were to scale your business down the road. And if you’re considering outsourcing manufacturing overseas, it’s always worth the extra money to ship a sample of the product you want, rather than just a picture. That way, you can make sure your cost savings aren’t compromising quality or turnaround time.
No matter what kind of company you’re signing with, you should be completely confident and comfortable before ever putting your pen near that dotted line. It’s much harder to reduce or remove someone’s equity once you’ve already assigned it. And remember, not all partnerships will work out great; I’ve had several that haven’t. But life is too short not to find partners who help add to the success of your business. Stay positive, go with your gut and see if your speed dating has long-term potential.