4 Strategies for Cultivating Winning Business Partnerships

Brian Grazer and Ron Howard.

Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger.

Bill and Melinda Gates.

These people are all successful partners in business.

No matter what industry you’re in or what type of business you operate, you depend on other people for part of your success. Whether it’s your supplier, your executive team, or your innovative product team, everyone plays an important role in the overall function of your company. But what happens when you introduce other people (partners) into your business strategy? For some, this introduces risks, but for most experienced entrepreneurs, this opens many windows of opportunity. According to Forbes, 1.6 million small businesses in America are partnerships. The right partnerships can end up being one of your biggest assets, but you need to have the right strategies in place to win.

Make Sure You Have Mutually Beneficial Goals

A partnership will only work if both parties are dedicated to achieving the same goals, which should be mutually beneficial. In a sales relationship, one company might feel less motivated to sell a certain product if they get the “short end of the stick” (less commission, less recognition, their client doesn’t benefit as much as the other). From the beginning, make sure your goals align and are appropriate for all involved parties. It’s okay to have separate goals for your unique organization, but to capitalize on the market and profit, you need to decide up front what the partners are going to contribute to the relationship. Common goals will give everyone something to work toward.


Set Clear Expectations

This part is important for any workplace relationship. Forming clear expectations is one of the first things you need to do if you want everyone involved to be accountable for actions and deliverables. An expectation could be something like, “Your team will hand over monthly sales reports by the 20th” or it could be something like “Every team member will sell 12 accounts weekly.”

Without outlined expectations, it is easy to put the blame on someone else or another outstanding factor, therefore allowing your team to repeat mistakes and/or avoid consequences. Business partnerships will quickly go downhill if there aren’t boundaries, goals, and expectations set from the beginning. There will always be a bit of trial and error before you know your expectations are attainable, so plan on being a little flexible in the beginning.

Is Everyone “In The Know”?

Partnerships always involve at least two people and, in the business world, usually include many more professionals that come from different areas of the company. There are most likely several teams from both sides involved in the partnership, working on goals, and communicating on a regular basis. One of the hardest parts of partnerships is the communication aspect. It’s crucial you keep everyone on the same page to avoid costly mistakes that happen because someone didn’t know about something.

One of the best ways to do this is establish a pattern early on and a standard for the level of communication required. Maybe this would include a daily email that includes everyone involved or a weekly phone conference. Regular communication keeps you or the boss “in the know” on the partner side of things and vice versa. It opens the door to work through problems early on and address concerns directly.

Get to Know Each Other

Even though partners in business may not work in the same office or even meet face-to-face, don’t let that stop you from creating a true team environment. Make sure you keep in touch with and know more people than just your main point of contact on the other side. This will help you deepen the connection you have with the partner and create stronger ties across company lines. You don’t want your contract to end if there is turnover. The more people who know you, the more likely you will keep the relationship. The more people you create relationships with, the better.

Strong partner relationships will also help you feel more at ease with the people around you. At times, it is important to bring up concerns or bluntly state what isn’t working. When you feel comfortable with the partners, you are more willing to be open and less afraid to talk about concerns.