Everyone has at least one hot-button issue. A boss from an old job of mine used to say, “Everything’s sales!” Not surprisingly, I was in a sales position at the time. His was a philosophy I didn’t much care for as it felt kind of… shallow.
On the other-hand, one of my personal hot-button issues is community. For me everything in business and life personally, is about building, nurturing and sustaining community. Simply put, I dork out over community. To be fair, I think that working within (and creating) communities is an integral piece to business and personal success these days. I believe people and organizations that can effectively and respectfully leverage community partnerships are at an advantage!
I’ve been building win-win community partnerships for the last 5+ years; it is one of my favorite things. I love meeting others, exploring opportunities for collaboration and executing on a mutually beneficial arrangement. It should come as no surprise that when I started EntrepreNerds earlier this year, I immediately began collaborating with complimentary businesses. The results of which produced outcomes I never expected, nor would I have achieved them on my own!
While everyone’s experiences are usually a little different, there are a few general rules you should follow. I’d like to share the five steps I’ve learned to form win-win community partnerships.
- Think Vertically – Brainstorm a list of products or services that directly or indirectly support what you’re doing. For example when starting a business book club, an independently owned book store makes for a good partner.
- Who Do You Already Know – Look over your existing contacts and connect with people in positions that compliment your own efforts. Working with your existing contacts usually means you have already established trust as well, that’s an added bonus. For example, I’ve been working with Old Firehouse Books in Fort Collins for years prior to starting EntrepreNerds. In fact, in 2008 I told Susie, the owner, that I thought someone should start a business book club…..
- What Do you Have to Offer – It’s easy sometimes to think about the things you can get out of working with others (truly it is, we don’t have to act like we’re totally self-less to be good collaborators). But going to the table with “What’s in it for me” isn’t exactly a win-win proposition. Think about it from their perspective, what genuinely helps them out. Consider the unique value and experterience (yeah, I like that word a lot now, experience + expertise = experterience) that you enjoy bringing to the table. Make it meaningful and manageable.
- Set Clear, Mutually Agreed Upon Expectations– I’ve seen many-a-projects go astray when expectations aren’t determined together, and from the beginning. If tis is poorly executed, the trust may begin to disintegrate. Determining who is responsible, and what their responsible for helps to ensure that all bases are covered without stepping on other’s toes as well.
- Keep the Conversation Going – Open communication is key. Most partnerships are formed in a dynamic world that’s ever-evolving. As things change, you each grow. Therefore, you must discuss the ways your working relationship will evolve as well. This might mean a change in responsibilities, a shift in the value exchanged, or that you’re going entirely in different directions!
Like mostly everything else in business, managing community partnerships is a continuous process. One that requires on-going effort: to evaluate, strategize and act.