The Power of Partnership


Business-to-Business partnerships can be powerful alliances, but there are rules of engagement that must be followed for there to be mutual benefits. I recently met a fellow business owner at a networking event who sent a follow-up email acknowledging our meeting. Included in her correspondence was a flyer for an upcoming seminar she was hosting at a local venue, urging me to distribute her information to my database of contacts. “How presumptuous,” I thought.

Some people tend to confuse networking with partnership. While both concepts are key strategies for building a successful business, it is important to understand the fundamental differences in order to reap the maximum benefits from each. Networking is the art of “sowing seed” that will create business opportunities; developing and maintaining connections and contacts with an array of people who might be helpful to your business.

A partnership, on the other hand, is more powerful in that each of the parties involved can leverage the other’s resources.They share a common commodity, and by pooling their resources they can create a win-win proposition.

For example, if you have a networking connection with someone, it would be perfectly appropriate for you ask that person for a business referral. However, it would be inappropriate for you to ask that person to invest their resources into your business without expecting a return on their investment. This is where a partnership comes into play.

Let’s face it, you may be passionate about what you do, but you’re in business to make money. If you possess a valuable commodity—money or other resource—it would not be prudent for you to just give it away. Consequently, don’t be disappointed when a business owner turns down, or ignores, your request to build your business with their assets and sweat equity. You must first propose a win-win strategy for them to consider.

Being in a position to leverage gives you the ability to influence the other side in a partnership negotiation. Here are 5 conditions that should be considered if you expect to form a mutually-beneficial partnership:

  1. Your brand will not be hurt by the partnership. Your reputation is one of your greatest assets. Don’t attach your name to anyone or anything that will cause your credibility to take a hit. Everything that glitters isn’t gold! You need to be confident that the party requesting the alliance can deliver on their promise. Review their track record, check references or get a first-hand glimpse of their product and services before entering into an agreement.
  2. Both parties must have something in common. What do you bring to the table? In a typical business partnership, both businesses share the same niche, or target market. If your business targets other business owners, it wouldn’t practical to approach Bill Gates as a potential partner, knowing that his resources are dedicated to youth education.
  3. The terms of use should be clearly stated. Do not turn over carte blanche license of your resources. There should be a written agreement that spells out a specific event, what each party expects to get out of the partnership and a definitive time frame.
  4. There should be a willingness to compromise. Understand that a partnership is a relationship with another individual or business. Don’t get so consumed in what you expect to receive that you make it difficult for your potential partner to see the benefits for themselves—a surefire way to sabotage a partnership that could render tremendous benefits.
  5. If possible, avoid partnering with friends and family. Forming a partnership with a friend of family member should be a last resort. Mixing business with pleasure has been known to be a toxic combination. If you are confident the relationship is strong enough to survive possible conflict, then you may take your chances.

Have you considered forming a partnership to help increase your profits and take your business to the next level? Partnerships can be powerful alliances that could bring so much to your business and take it further than you could on your own. The pointers above will equip you with what you need to know to help facilitate a win-win partnership.


Rebecca McClain is the founder of RM Enterprises. As an entrepreneur, author, speaker and coach, she inspires people all across the nation and internationally. In November 2009, she launched the online networking platform, Build A Thriving Business Network, for women and minorities in business. Look for her on the next cover of People You Need to Know. She can be reached at (678) 289-0148.

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3 had something to say.
  1. Bonnie Pond


    This is great advice for all of us. Thanks for sharing your insights and experience. You are sooo right about avoiding partnerships with friends. Definitely not a good idea.

  2. PYNTK

    I agree. This can turn into a really sticky situation.

  3. CJ Hall

    Wonderful article Rebecca. You are so right, people seem to get networking and partnering confused all the time. This can be problematic especially if you perceive that the quality of their product/service and track record is not compatible with yours.


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