Forming a partnership with a vendor can be a daunting task. It’s not just about picking a product, signing a contract and reaching out only when there are issues, you need to choose a company that you can work closely with. Someone who you can build a partnership with that moves beyond simple transactions and encourages you both to build a strategy together. So while there are many benefits to becoming a partner in a business, you need to inspect each prospect carefully before making any commitments.
Where this is the first time you’re considering creating a partnership or your tenth, knowing what questions to ask and what steps to take can make all the difference between ending up with a mediocre partner or one that’s actively invested in your success. That’s why we recommend starting a business partnership checklist with the points below so you’ll know when you’ve found the vendor that’s right for you.
Starting a Business Partnership Checklist: Assess Your Needs
Before you even begin looking for a vendor, take a step and decide what you need from a partner. Is there a gap in your portfolio? Is there a specific kind of technology that would complement your offering? Are there any issues you’re struggling with such as marketing or lead generation?
In an ideal partnership, your partner should complement your skill set, leaving your business more well-rounded than before. So knowing what you need before you even start listing potential partners allows you to narrow your search while giving you the best chance of discovering your ideal vendor.
However, looking for business partners should be more than visiting their website or tradeshow stand. You need to have a good picture of the organization to see if what they offer truly is a good fit. Therefore, take some time to dig a little deeper. Speak to any of your contacts that have worked with the vendor previously, reach out to their current partners and, of course, read through any available case studies. The more people’s experiences you consult, the more complete view you’ll have of your potential partner.
Another consideration before forming a partnership is the partner’s reputation with customers. You want a product or solution that will be desirable to your customers, though that doesn’t always mean it has to be a big name. In fact, it can be much easier to sell a service from a less-known brand than one with negative associations. If customers have never heard of a brand before, you have the unique chance to sell them purely on the value of the solution and your complete offer. Just make sure to also share any recognitions from analysts like Gartner or industry awards that the vendor has won so they know that it is credible and well thought of.
On the other hand, if a potential partner has a negative reputation, it’s likely that there is little you can do to change a customer’s opinion. Save yourself the uphill battle by looking for business partners whose brand is focused, clear and provides excellent products and service.
Once you’re confident that a vendor is a solid candidate to become a partner, then it’s time to set up a meeting and see what they have to say and offer.
Build a Strong Foundation
Becoming a partner in a business is as much about you complimenting your partner as it is about them complimenting you. So when you do reach the stage where you’re meeting and discussing their partnership offer, don’t forget to ask about their values, business direction and goals. And more importantly — check them against the information you gleaned from your own research.
You’ll want to know that the way they do business meshes with your priorities and even your communication style. Because communication is key to any good relationship — and that’s even more true when it comes to creating a partnership.
How do they prefer to contact you? Do you have the opportunity to have face-to-face or video calls or do you only send emails back and forth? Do they err on the side of politeness, occasionally understating a situation, or are they direct, if a bit blunt? All of this plays into how well you will work together and you should be looking for a business partner whose communication method and style roughly matches your own, otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for misunderstandings and strife.
Remember, clear and mutually respectful communication is the foundation of trust. You need to know that when problems arise, you’ll be able to calmly work with your partner to find a solution. Of course, you also need to make sure that you are interested in the same things and that each of you has something that benefits the other. Otherwise, forming a partnership with them, even if it makes some strategic sense, won’t yield the best results.
Define the Partnership
Once you are confident that becoming a partner in a business with your chosen vendor is the right move for you, it’s time to sit down and discuss the details of the arrangement. You need to be sure that each of you knows what their responsibilities are and understands how these new requirements will work within your organization.
Whatever you do, don’t rush through this process. You don’t want to be surprised that your partner won’t offer you support when you expect it or that there are fees you are unaware of. In fact, be upfront about your payment and invoicing system, making sure that you can set realistic expectations for how quickly you can process transactions. This is also the ideal time to negotiate more favorable payment terms, including pricing.
Regarding pricing, keep in mind that it isn’t exclusively about what you pay to your partner, but also about whether or not you have the freedom to set your own prices — and here is where many business partnership opportunities lie. If your partner is comfortable with you establishing your own price lists for your customers, that means you have the power to earn the margin you deserve.
But to do this, you need to make sure you’re not creating a partnership with a vendor that isn’t exclusive about picking their partners or worse, sells directly to customers. If there are a lot of other MSPs, or other local competitors, offering the same product, you’re at risk of losing prospects either because you’re being undercut or because you fail to stand out. But if your vendor is your competitor then you will definitely lose out on margin as your vendor can always offer the product or service at a lower price than you can because they don’t have to cover your costs — just their own.
When you’re satisfied with the roles and responsibilities of both parties, it’s time to draft your contract. This is a process you can do on your own without a lawyer, but it can be worthwhile to involve one in the process. If your partner has worked with other MSPs, they likely already have a basic draft available, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it can’t be changed to meet your needs and circumstances. Alternatively, you can start creating a partnership contract from scratch, just don’t forget to include the following points:
- Names, roles, responsibilities and authority of each partner
- The goals and planned duration of the partnership
- Contributions and profit and loss sharing
- Decision-making processes
- Terms and conditions for withdrawing from the partnership
- Dispute resolution mechanisms
- Confidentiality and non-compete clauses, if needed
- Governing laws and jurisdiction, as needed
Remember, even if you are feeling positive about your choice and the business partnership opportunities that await you, you must include procedures, including contract termination and dispute resolution, that you both agree on in case things don’t go to plan.
When starting a business partnership checklist you’re usually fully invested in making the partnership work for the long-term. And while you may hope that everything will run smoothly, the reality is that in any relationship there will be rough patches. So to protect your business and your budding partnership, you need to clearly identify potential challenges and create procedures to reduce or manage any associated risks.
Hopefully as part of your process for looking for business partners you’ve already weeded out the ones that were the furthest from your business model or in other ways would have created the most challenges. But even with a partner that is perfectly aligned with your goals and values, there is still a risk that you will not agree on everything, from strategy to price increases. So, make sure that you have a clear procedure for how to address these disputes so that they can be handled in a calm and constructive manner.
It’s worth noting that by addressing concerns and criticism constructively, both companies can adapt their procedures or even their offer to better serve themselves and the end customer. Just make sure that you clearly define the channels and procedure for sending this information so that it can be handled by the appropriate teams at the appropriate time. After all, no one wants their dirty laundry aired at a large event or leading up to a negotiation with a new client. Establishing a clear procedure can go a long way to diffusing a situation.
However, even with the best resolution techniques, there are times when a partnership needs to come to an end. It could be things simply can’t be salvaged or that there are other business partnership opportunities that arise and adapt better to new circumstances. As a result, make sure that it is clear how the partnership can be ended and what the consequences are for both parties. You’ll need to know when to give notice, what assets need to be returned, if there are any fees and who keeps ownership of the customers once the partnership is terminated.
As an added measure of protection, you might also want to consider having a backup vendor or supplier in mind in case anything goes south so you can transition your customers and be provided with the resources you need to continue your business. You don’t have to go as far as forming a partnership at the same time if you legally shouldn’t or are not ready to, but it can also be an option to work with two different vendors at the same time as long as it doesn’t reduce the focus of your business. This is especially important if you work with legacy systems as having a second vendor that has a strong cloud offer can prepare you and your customers for the future.
Stay in Contact
Once you’ve ironed out your contract and contingency plans, you’re ready to truly work on becoming a partner in a business. This means not just signing a paper and hoping everything turns out alright. You need to build in regular checkpoints and KPIs to make sure both you and your partner are consistently working towards the same goal.
Make a plan to meet on a regular basis between designated contacts so that messages are not lost and a clear, open channel of communication is built up between your two organizations. Know what metrics you are responsible for and make sure you share them during those updates. Predictability and transparency will make it easy to work together and help you spot any potential disagreements long before they turn into issues.
Additionally, these regular updates can help you unlock areas for improvement and growth, not only in the partnership but in your individual business and skills. If your vendor offers coaching, training and other certification, make sure that you take full advantage of them.
And of course, make sure that you make the most of the unified communications (UC) technology that you promote and install to be able to seamlessly communicate with your partners as well as your own teams wherever you are in the world.
Collaborate on Marketing
Finding new customers and opportunities is a constant battle for MSPs, so take every chance you can to work together with your partner on marketing campaigns and strategies. Often, marketing is not the first thing on your to-do list, but actually, when starting your business partnership checklist you should have a marketing strategy in mind so that you can set expectations and start improving your market presence right away.
It can start simply through knowledge-sharing. If your partner has a dedicated marketing team and materials, discover what support they can offer you. It may be down to training sessions, a one-to-one meeting to discuss your strategy and resources or handing you the marketing materials you can personalize for use with your end customer. The level of support on offer can really make certain vendors stand out when looking for business partners, just make sure that when you are a partner you use them.
You will also want to see if your vendor’s established networks can help you find new customers. You could cohost an event with them or even reach out to their other partners who have different offers and skill sets. Business partnership opportunities don’t have to be limited to just you and your vendor, there may be many opportunities to work with other MSPs within the same ecosystem.
Of course, any partnership requires just as much give as it does take. You can equally improve the value of your vendor’s brand by working with them to create valuable content such as end-user and partner case studies. Not only do they help your vendor with forming partnerships with new MSPs but they also give you additional exposure and content that you could share to help you attract more customers. And the best part? It’s likely to be content that is professionally written and produced at the expense of your partner, so as long as you can get permission from your end-users or you yourself are comfortable with being interviewed, it’s an easy win for your marketing kit.
Finally, consider using your vendor’s endorsement as another way to increase your business partnership opportunities. It always helps to have support from an organization larger than yourself and if your vendor offers certification or a higher level partnership work towards achieving them and share them proudly on your website and other marketing materials. You know yourself from researching vendors how having a seal of approval from a larger body can increase your trust, so make sure that you don’t overlook the power of an official endorsement.
The Power of Partnerships: Working with Wildix
Becoming a partner in a business is one of the most effective things you can do to increase your reach and visibility. Just make sure that you choose a partner, such as Wildix, who is invested in your success.
At Wildix, we only ever sell our solutions through our carefully selected partners, working with you and never competing against you. That also means all of our pricelists are private and visible only to our partners, so you are free to set your own margins. And, of course, we never take your customer lists, ensuring your customers are your own.
And with opportunities to receive individualized business advice, inspiring sales training and marketing tips and resources, becoming a Wildix partner means we’ll work hard to give you all the tools you need to win more deals and grow your business.
But regardless of who you choose, make sure you’re creating a partnership with a company that will take you much further than you can go as a small business on your own. Just keep in mind your end goals when starting a business partnership checklist and you’re sure to find a vendor that will be a joy to work with and will help you to exceed your own expectations.
For more insight on the value of partnerships, subscribe to receive our magazine for free!