I love great questions as they relate to business and one of our “Starting Out” members: Teri asked a great question as a result of our “Knowledge Sharing” conference call. She asked what I thought about partnerships, as she’s had a not so great experience. I told her that I’m very opinionated on the subject. Let me start off by saying that partnerships can work. Ok, now that that’s said, here’s why I’ve not wanted to, nor have I partnered with anyone else as of yet:
I’ve Worked Hard to Establish My Company and Brand.
I’ve worked extremely hard, (that’s putting it mildly) to start and grow my business. Does that mean it was a pain to do so? No. I enjoy hard work and I’ve always been a leader and creative, so coming up with new ideas for my business to grow it and make my clients happy, is a joy for me. Why would I risk merging what I’ve created with someone who may “SAY” they share the same work ethic as I do, but simply “DON’T”.
If you don’t mind the occasional client saying your partner messed up this or your partner was late for a meeting, then by all means, partner up! However, I’ve worked too hard to chance it. That doesn’t mean I don’t work with others. I prefer referrals and I refer loads of work to other Virtual Assistants and Virtual Workers in other areas all the time, when my core team is swamped. I enjoy helping others and watching them grow and this is a joy for me. However, even with my referral system, I’ve had to be careful. I’ve referred clients to a couple of Virtual Assistants and/or Virtual Workers who were less than stellar and the client always comes back to me, as well they should, and mentions the failings of the VA I’ve referred to them. This is what I mean about risking your brand, when you partner with someone or even refer someone else, you’re putting your brand on the line and if you’ve worked hard, like I have, to build a great reputation, you don’t want to be hasty about doing that just to say you have a partner. Your brand is at stake when you partner with someone and unless you’ve just copied your entire way of doing things after another person, that should matter to you and it leads me into my next point…
Why Do You Want A Partner?
Many people are in business to simply make money. This is especially true with some who classify themselves as “Online Marketers”. What I’ve noticed is that a lot of marketers simply copy off of each other, all with money making in mind (dig my alliteration there 🙂 One marketer says a catch phrase and they all start saying it. One promotes this way of marketing and they all start doing it. The smaller marketers copy off of the so-called big named marketers and the so-called big name marketers copy off of the little guys and gals too and think no one notices. You sign up for one marketers webinar, and then you wind up on their partners Newsletter list. All of this is done to make money, no matter what many of them say. I’m in business to help support myself and family, but money is not now, nor has ever been my primary focus in life. Those who know me, know this. The point is, while we can all LEARN from one another, I’ve never been a follower and many times those who want to partner with you, simply want to follow everyone else for money making purposes.
You may feel that having a partner will lighten your workload. Some may take on a partner for this reason. They feel that having a partner will allow them to garner more clients, but do a bit less work. Well, this is a great lead to my last point (although I have so many others; I just don’t have the time to pen them all)…
Will Partnering With Some Decrease or Increase Your Workload?
If you’ve been working solo and decide to take a partner, ideally it should lighten your workload, right? Well, in theory that looks good on paper, but let’s check it out in real life scenarios:
Your partner brings in new clients and you don’t know their businesses very well, but are happy to have them on the roster. Well your partner inevitably takes a day or two off, gets sick or worst goes MIA on you. Well now you have the dilemma of helping all of your partners clients and as well your own. Even the best laid plans can go awry and if you partner discusses vacations or time off for family “this or that” you are still left making sure all of your new found clients (via your new found partner) are serviced properly: Unless of course you’ve hired Virtual Work Team LLC to help you! 🙂
Even if everything goes smoothly when it comes to servicing your clients, having a partner adds another person to the mix that you must always consider before you make any major business decisions. This, to me, doesn’t streamline your work, but makes everything more cumbersome. A partner should rightfully be considered whenever you decide to do most things in your business and that means MORE, not less work. More stress, more headaches, more time spent before decisions can be made. Being an entrepreneur often means you have to make quick decisions and you don’t always have the luxury of time to wait for a partner to decide if they agree with your idea.
Well Teri, I hope that answers your question. To you my friend and all our other readers: I tried to add a bit of levity to what can be a serious subject. However, I don’t believe in sugar coating how I feel; when someone asks for my opinion: I’m giving you the “Truth Ruth”, the “Real Deal Holyfield”, “Straight-up With No Chaser!” 🙂 Again, partnerships can work and I’ve not ruled them out for my business indefinitely, but I’m just not interested in one at this time, at all. However, if you decide not to take the advice of this wise sage and partner with someone anyway, here are some things to consider:
Only partner with someone you know very well OR Don’t know very well, here’s why:
- When you partner with someone you know very well, you are already aware of their work ethic, how they handle business stress and what their strong and weak points are. There won’t be many surprises with this person and you may be able to make a success of it.
- On the other hand, if you can’t find the optimal above mentioned situation, make sure you partner with an acquaintance. Someone that you’re familiar with, but who you will have no problem: kickin’ to the curb, if they start bustin’/messin’ up your brand. There won’t be as much tension, hard feelings or worst: a lost friendship, if you partner with someone who you are not very close to.
Make sure the playing field is level before you partner:
- When you decide to take on a partner, make sure they can bring in their fair share of clients and/or customers. You’ll want to check out their conversion ratio and make sure that their work ethic is at least on par with yours. Reference checking is invaluable before partnering. Talk to past clients or customers and get a feel for how this person works. These key points should be on the level with the way you work, deal with and obtain new clients and/or customers.
- Decide on mutual levels of responsibility. While both of you don’t have to do the exact same things, the work load and responsibilities you share with one another should be equitable and fair.
Whew!, I could actually keep going with this article, but I have to stop for the sake of time. If you want to know how I REALLY feel (LOL) about the subject, always feel free to schedule a “Business Consultation” with me here.
This is Shilonda Downing, signing off for Virtual Work Team LLC!