How to Build Strong Partnerships

DBE Series 7

How can we make our DBE partnerships stronger?

OK, so either you have colleagues you’ve known a long time and have partnered with in the past. Or, you went to a business development training event. You met some colleagues that you’d really like to partner with on projects.  

You make a plan to meet with them over coffee or lunch to make a plan to go after some work together. And the meeting went great but, now what? How can we keep the original excitement going?

What this reminds me about is a quote from the 1997 movie, Soul Food. Not to spoil it for you, but the movie had my heart because the main character, Mama, had diabetes and was the leader of her family, just like my dad. At the head of the family dinner table, she made a strong statement when telling her family how to care for each other. She said this quote, “One finger [pointing the blame] won’t make an impact, but you ball all those fingers into a fist, and you can strike a mighty blow.”

In the palm of your hand is your business. The fingers represent the people in your business and the partners around you. Your partners should include complementary businesses, not competition.  

The people who can easily refer you out and vice versa – help each other get jobs.  

So let me tell you how to make your partnerships stronger.  

  1. Talk regularly. Make a note for yourself to have coffee with your partners individually at least 1x per month. And not just shooting the breeze. Create a plan for what subjects you want to cover and create a beginning time and end time. Make it official – like a board of directors meeting. Come with an objective of what you want to accomplish during this time. 
  2. Create an online communication system. This can quickly be done in the free service, google sheets. Here you can share an excel chart of opportunities you’ve found to bid on that the other person might want to check out. Make a note for yourself to check this sheet and update it 1x per week. We know that you can’t always be in the same town, and we know that business moves too quickly to wait for a meeting. Sharing opportunities this way is most comfortable. I wouldn’t recommend texting because texting can get lost very easily. 

Mastermind quarterly. What a mastermind is, this is a regularly occurring brainstorming session of 1) this is what I want to do 2) this is the challenges that are blocking me 3) please help me figure out the steps I need to move past the obstacles. Then, during the quarter, be my accountability buddy. 

  1. Hold me accountable for what I said I’d do. A group of 3 partners with 20-minutes can easily have a 90-minute meeting to include wrapping up and lunch—a group of 6 partners with 20 minutes each might want to push it to an entire afternoon.  
  2. Why mastermind? The stronger your partners are, the more able they are to move past their challenges, the stronger the team is – the fist: your power and theirs. You might have to share some vulnerable issues and name – names, but if you’re willing to put your finances on the line with these partners, you need to create a high level of trust here.
  3. Trust is everything. The more you and your partners can nurture trust with each other, the more reliable your team. Without conviction, they are unlikely to refer you out. You become easily replaceable by your next competitor they may run into at the next job or business development training class.  

Published by Janet Johnson | Financial Coach for Small Businesses

Janet Johnson is the author of My Money Pivot: An Entrepreneur's Guide to Finding & Making More Money. Before becoming a coach, Janet gained seventeen years of experience in a family-owned manufacturing company. She also trained small business owners in Financial Management and Lean Enterprise for seven years through contracts with the State of Connecticut and the Small Business Administration for seven years.

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