Hands down, people have been my greatest leverage and worst nightmare in business. But done right, partnerships can catapult your growth and impact more than any other contributor to your success as a small business owner.
Here are 3 reasons why:
1. Partners Have Ownership Partners have skin in the game and will therefore do whatever it takes to ensure business success. The Bible says, “where your treasure is, there your heart is also.” Having invested time, money, names, and therefore reputation in the venture, partners are willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice to safeguard their investment.
A few months ago my family and I went to a restaurant franchise in the town next to ours. As we got out of the car I saw that particular restaurant's Managing Partner's name and contacts engraved on a plaque on the wall next to the entrance.
Talk about ownership! Without saying too many words, that sign announced, ‘your experience today rests squarely on this person’s shoulders’. You can imagine what having your name up there like that can do to you, because let’s face it, you are your name and your name is you. Whatever people’s experience with your name in one place carries a ripple effect everywhere else your name is mentioned. Your name and reputation carry not only your business but most importantly to you as a partner, your personal brand.
Doing business with a partner you know, trust, and like gives you the assurance that you are pulling together with someone who will leave no stone unturned to safeguard their reputation and the performance of the business.
2. Partners Take Risks In our P31 Womanaire and Virtuous Woman Apparel t-shirt business, my partner, Dorothy Emmanuel, and I chose to absorb a particular customer’s costs in order to attract that client account.
This, of course, meant that we wouldn’t make much profit, but we were willing to take the risk. This move secured the client in what became an even larger account than we had initially hoped when we made that decision.
You can imagine asking employees to take a cut to satisfy a client would not always be met with confetti and jubilation.
Especially with unpredictable seasons of small businesses feast and famine.
I recall an incident over a decade ago when I was managing a group of start-up companies. Right after finishing a meeting with Group heads of business, a colleague from a business that was still locked up in negotiations and had not had made any sales that month, walked up to me, and said, “It’s not my business that we didn’t make any money, I want my pay and I want it on time.” And rightly so.
Partners, on the other hand, are willing to absorb the risk, are willing to forgo short-term gains for possible long-term returns. Because, unlike employees, it literally is their business.
3. Partners Complement Strengths Having said all of that, please don’t get partners for partnerships’ sake.
It is critical to first determine the competencies and resources required to drive the business so that you can partner strategically and complimentary.
That way, you can have a clear demarcation of roles and duties, over and in the business, without trying to figure it all out on your own.
Before my partner, Phumla Motsa, came onboard Modesta. Africa, our coaching and consulting business, it was on me to secure all capital, manage all business functions, lead all personnel, engage all stakeholders, comply with all regulations, and endeavor to deliver service excellence.
I’m exhausted just recalling that period.
I cannot express the level of peace, focus, and seamless execution partnering with someone who brings strengths in the areas I struggle with has brought.
Now, I must admit that I have worked with colleagues who have taken ownership, risks, and complimented my profile before. Do you know what I did? I offered them a partnership!
Short of that, the decision to move forward, pivot, or close shop would be squarely on your shoulders, as would your blind spots, skills gaps, shortcomings, and resource challenges. The worst thing to do as an entrepreneur is to do business on your own. Find equity and other strategic partners to carry the load.
Start the process to engage business partners and you would be thrilled to see how fast both you and your business can grow.
Are you a solopreneur or small business owner? Check out my book, The African Entrepreneur’s Start-Up Checklist on Amazon.