A Beginner’s Guide to Creating Partnerships

There’s no such thing as a successful business that operates in a vacuum. Every company needs strategic business partnerships or mutually beneficial relationships with a two-way commitment. Both companies in a partnership agreement to help one another and put forward similar efforts to reap benefits all-around.

Building partnerships is a key business development step, so new companies should act fast to build partnerships. Even a brand-new company can develop good footing when they gain strategic partnerships.

Decide Who to Approach

There are some serious ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ of business partnerships. The cardinal rule is to never seek out a strategic partnership with a direct competitor. Why should they build a partnership with you when the best thing you could do for them is close up shop?

You’re better off seeking partnerships with someone in your industry, but that provides goods/services in a different or complementary segment of the industry. For example, Disney and Pixar both worked in the entertainment industry, but Disney’s experience with big-budget films and Pixar’s experience with complex computer animation didn’t overlap. This is a great example of a partnership that went hand-in-hand.

Aim for Symbiotic Partnerships

Symbiotic relationships in nature refer to different species that help each other, each benefitting from the other’s presence. One of the most popular examples is the partnership between clownfish and sea anemones. Sharp-stinging anemones give clownfish a safe place to live and avoid predators, while clownfish scare off the predators that may attack anemone gardens. 

When building a partnership in a business, you’re looking for a similar, mutually beneficial arrangement. Be careful approaching companies with a list of ways that they can help you; nobody besides a longtime personal contact will agree to such a one-sided partnership. Instead, learn more about every company or organization you intend to approach. Which of their business needs can you help satisfy?

1 + 1 = 3

This value equation defines good business partnerships. When two companies work together, both should create more value from the partnership than they could gain alone. Think of the specific ways in which you and a potential business partner can benefit from your mutual relationship.

Maybe you can share supplies to reduce costs. Maybe you can share clients, build backlinks to refer to each other’s websites or approach new clients together. It’s important to find new ways to benefit, as well. Like an interpersonal relationship, a business relationship can terminate when it goes stale–or stops benefiting both sides of the equation.  

Stay on Your Guard

While you and your business partner may benefit from your relationship, you can’t control their business operations or development, nor can they do so to your company. This means that each side of a partnership will ultimately pursue its own interests (and bottom line). Don’t hit the mat when your business partner builds a similar relationship with one of your competitors, changes their branding strategy, or even expands their market to overlap with your own. 

How do you avoid being blindsided? Set the specific terms of your deal, involving a business lawyer if you can. Continue to manage the partnership through its life cycle. If your partnership hasn’t formed around specific, written agreements, be flexible enough to adapt and find new partnerships when this one goes sour.


At the end of the day, having a strong network to support your business and marketing strategies is crucial to success. VSSL can help. Get in touch with us today to see how we can help take some of your marketing and business development plans to the next level.