The one sure thing about business is that you cannot afford to operate as an island, that no matter how big or small your business may be, it can benefit through partnerships with others within your industry or sectors you want to enter.
Picking the right partners – individuals or companies – who will deliver what they say or is agreed, is actually a challenge.
I come from the old school where a handshake means something … and always will. Once I agree to something, I stick to it and put 100% commitment into honoring my word.
Unfortunately, that is not the case with many who are very good at “talking the talk” but cannot “walk the walk”.
I have been caught out quite a few times over the years by “snake skin salesmen” and now apply some very basic parameters to what I do, some of which I detail below. Some of these parameters also can be applied to staff selection.
Some of these are specific to what I do and where I am based and therefore should be interpreted in the context of an EXAMPLE rather than a template – to help you formulate similar parameters for your own business.
Passion is all about believing in what you are doing, that it will have an impact on others lives, and that it will deliver positive results for you, your staff, and your clients for a very long time.
Your passion has to be shared by your partners and employees as more than likely there will be rocky times in between where you start and where you want to be. When the people around you are passionate (even partially compared to your own level), they help you take your own game one step higher.
You have to avoid short term opportunists without any interest (or passion) in what you are doing as they can divert your attention and hold you back.
You Failed? Congratulations…
People who have failed can be terrific people to get involved with … because failure generally means the individual is one step closer to success! They understand what it is like to be down and therefore, once success arrives, they don’t take it for granted and ensure it will continue.
I personally like to partner with and employ people who have tried to run their own business even if it was not a success, as it demonstrates their willingness to give something a go rather than sit on their backsides waiting for someone to hand them a salary and work within a 9-5 timeframe.
I immediately discount anyone who comes to me and says they have never had a failure. This particularly applies to when I employ people as everyone endeavors to dress up their Curriculum Vitae yet somewhere in their work history, they more than likely haven’t delivered. I am more interested in their failures – and particularly what they learnt from them.
You Are Only As Good As Your Last Job…
The skill sets we needed and used 10 years ago are generally not applicable in today’s business world. Back then, you could survive doing one thing and doing that well.
Today, you have to be multi-skilled and be open and willing to expand both your skills and thinking even further.
In saying that, the best and most thoughtful advice I get is from people who have considerable business background as “old world” principles are proven and will always work if applied with a modern day edge.
The ideal is to find partners – and employees – who have a depth of business experience plus current skill sets and awareness of current market trends.
Getting a handle on this is not easy as reference checks can easily (and often are) doctored so there can be a huge difference between what is said and what is real.
As a very minimum, every professional should have a Linkedin profile – or a website such as this where we list our key people and associates. Simple links such as these are a wonderful way to demonstrate who your peers are.
I am amazed that some people who push themselves as experts still don’t have a presence on Linkedin or any other social network. I used to accept their argument of “I am a private person” but nowadays, my question is “what are you hiding from”, especially within the Expat community where I am based where many Expats pose as deal makers yet cannot demonstrate any form of “reputation”.
I’m also not into numbers when it comes to social network participation. Having 5,000 friends on Facebook or 10,000 followers on Twitter doesn’t impress me at all as it’s impossible to properly engage at that level unless you allocate a significant amount of time – time which should be devoted to the business rather than ones ego.
Yes, connections do make a difference in business. However, past connections are not necessarily the right connections for what you need today.
In the Affiliate marketing arena, many deals are done based on list size and cross promotion. This is not a good measurement as big lists often can be very un-responsive as relationships between the subscriber and the list owner on many of these may have been forged by participation in a Giveaway or other one-off activity and therefore end up being very un-responsive whilst your cross promotion is super-responsive. The balance is not right!
Life and Business Experience
When I was younger, there was a school of thought that you employed someone with stability (i.e. 1 job x 10 years). That gradually moved to a belief that 10 jobs x 1 year was a better option. That latter thinking is now firmly embedded in workplace practices with staff rotation an intrinsically important way of multi-skilling your business and more and more tasks being outsourced to specialists with relevant skills.
There are roles which are exceptions (e.g. accounting functions). However, at the strategic, creative, and business development front ends, you really need people with considerable life and business skills who are able to think and act outside the box.
When it comes to partnerships, your partner has to bring something to the table. That may be cash only which is OK if that is all you seek. However, if you want active participation, then you should be looking for strengths you lack – i.e. skills, connections, strategic advice etc.
Lifestyle & Values – RED FLAGS
The following from Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” always comes to mind when I am developing relationships on a local level:
“Love is blind, they say; sex is impervious to reason and mocks the power of all philosophers. But, in fact, a man’s sexual choice is the result and the sum of his fundamental convictions. Tell me what a man finds sexually attractive and I will tell you his entire philosophy of life. Show me the woman he sleeps with and I will tell you his valuation of himself…”
I personally apply this quotation to a broader set of parameters (i.e. other than sex) to bring forth many RED FLAGS. For example, within the local Expat community, I will not deal with Expats who:
- Spend all their time or do business in a bar – the bar is the “woman” they sleep with.
- Are not family oriented – a family serves as a person’s “woman” and shows commitment.
- Cannot demonstrate a long term commitment and dealings within the local business community – their “woman” can change overnight (today it is Manila, tomorrow it is Dubai, etc)
- Have no online reputation (as outlined above) – who is the “woman” they are hiding from?
This is not about passing judgement on someone’s lifestyle based on their marital status, their leisure preferences, are here on a short term contract, or any other factor. Rather, it’s about recognizing and measuring potential commitment. You have to establish a process of your own for producing these “flags”.
[Anyone who has worked and lived as an Expat in a country for a period of time will understand the relevance of the above when dealing with Expats.]
The above are by no means all the parameters I use. However, they are the main ones, most of which can be applied to almost any type of partnership.
Feel free to share your own parameters and thoughts below.