When you're an entrepreneur, there are tremendous benefits in being a one-person show. You are the master of your domain, with complete power and the flexibility to do what you want when you want.
While that provides plenty of freedom, there is a downside: There is only so much of you in terms of time and the ability to provide all the services that clients may need.
This is where the value of partnerships comes into play. Having a formal or even informal agreement with someone who can support and enhance what you do can make a huge difference - not only in being able to offer more services but in also having the opportunity to take on different and new kinds of business.
In my digital marketing business, my path to a partnership was more by accident than design. Just after getting the business launched, I received a message via LinkedIn from Seth Singer - someone with whom I played Ultimate Frisbee. He wanted to meet for coffee to see if there were ways that his website design and development business, Think Thirty Three Inc., could help my freshly minted business.
At first, I had little idea about how we would work together - partly because I wasn't exactly sure yet about the services I was offering.
In time, however, the opportunities for us to work on projects together started to become more frequent.
Whenever I talked to a client about social media or digital marketing, there was usually a need for website design and development. By being able to team up with Mr. Singer on projects, I could offer clients one-stop shopping, rather than only being able to meet part of their needs.
A key reason why our partnership works is that we have synergistic, but not overlapping skill sets. This is important because there is no sense of competition. Instead, we have complementary skills: one plus one does equal three.
At the same, it has become increasingly obvious that, as much as I need him to meet the needs of clients, he needs my services just as much. Together, we are a much more interesting entity for potential clients.
Another important issue that has to be addressed with a potential partner is your approach to business and doing work. You need to have a good sense about how and when the other person works, and whether the way they deal with clients aligns with your approach.
In an ideal world, partners embrace the same fundamental principles, such as being focused on great customer service and meeting deadlines.
As well, money issues can't be ignored. From the start, partners need to have a clear understanding of how the budget for each project is going to be shared. If one partner lands a new client but does less of the actual work, how does it get divided? Does one partner get a commission even if he or she wins the business and then does nothing more? Who handles customer relations and does the invoicing?
In many respects, money can be the most challenging part of establishing a partnership, so there has to be clear understanding of the ground rules and mechanics before you do business together. It is not something that can be handled on the fly. By that time, it can be too late and create potential for conflict.
With all that in mind, the benefits of finding and having the right partner can be enormous. It can make life, business and work more interesting, productive and profitable.
It may take some time to discover the right partner but it is well worth the time and effort.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Mark Evans is a principal with ME Consulting , a content and social media strategic and tactical consultancy that creates and delivers 'stories' for companies looking to capture the attention of customers, bloggers, the media, business partners, employees and investors. Mark has worked with three start-ups - Blanketware, b5Media and PlanetEye - so he understands how they operate and what they need to do to be successful. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshUniversity and meshmarketing conferences.
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