Forming meaningful connections with other business owners can impact your own success in some huge ways!
As a small business owner with a “can-do” personality, it’s often tempting to try to do everything yourself. From building a website to searching out new clients to keeping your books and beyond…after all, you decided to build this business yourself, so why shouldn’t you be the one keeping it running?
However, there are some major benefits to connecting with other entrepreneurs to effectively “outsource” things that aren’t in your wheelhouse. Each business owner’s needs are different, but no matter your size, products, or services, I guarantee you’ll see some value added by finding the right entrepreneurs to connect with. Here’s why:
1) Increase your organic marketing reach
The first partnership I formed was with Houston-based photographer Juan Castaneda. For various reasons, Juan and I know we have some overlap in our target market here in Houston. By bartering some services to each other, we’re able to make sure people who know about me also know about him, and vice versa.
This means each of us have effectively doubled our marketing reach just by connecting and sharing each other's services with our own clients. Note that this can work even if you’re not sure about a specific overlap in target market. After all, you never know who someone else knows and will refer you to!
2) Barter to meet needs of both parties
But, what do you mean by “connecting?” What I mean is this: bartering services and marketing to ensure both parties’ needs are met. For Juan and me, it’s pretty simple.
I run an editing company. While I find my work incredibly interesting and fulfilling, it’s not the most visual of fields, and doesn’t lend itself to creating the kind of website I wanted to represent my business.
Juan runs a photography company, where he creates beautiful images that need to be in front of more eyeballs to bring him clients. By working together, I have a website that features great visual content, and he gets extra eyeballs with every visit. I've also been able to help Juan out with some other editing projects in return.
Note that for this to work, the partnership needs to be mutual and fair. When I was a teacher, I always told my students that what is fair isn’t always equal, and what is equal isn’t always fair. I would illustrate this for them using the glasses example: some students wear glasses, and some don’t. Is this fair? Yes, they always replied, because he needs glasses and I don’t.
In a mutual and fair partnership, both people won't always get the exact same thing, but both people's needs should always be met.
The same is true of business partnerships: because every business owner’s needs are different, a fair partnership will look different in every case. Ensuring there is real, mutual benefit for each party is critical.
3) Check for complementary (but not redundant) services/products
For Juan and me, there’s no fear that one of us is going to be “stealing” the other's clients. Though I disagree with that mentality in the freelance market at all (see a great argument why under point #5 here), we can be sure of this because we offer unique services: I’m a writing coach and he’s a photographer.
These are not the same thing, and it’s perfectly reasonable that someone could need both services simultaneously. In fact, it could also be likely that they need both: if a burgeoning business is starting to create a marketing presence, their founder may need both great headshots and perfect web copy. Juan and I can work together to serve this client without fear of diminishing either of our business returns…and we may even gain another partner in the process!
4) Redirect your focus back onto your mission
The moment I realized I wanted to create a more visual web presence was also the moment I realized how difficult that would be. I’m not a professional photographer. While I can physically take pictures and could potentially learn how to do it well, any of my time spent perfecting this skill would not be productive to the mission of my business: helping clients create compelling written content.
That left me with a couple options: buy and use stock photos, or connect with another small business owner to see how we could help each other. In addition to being chock-full of extra benefits, Option 2 is more in line with my mission as an entrepreneur.
When making decisions like this, comparing available options against your stated mission (you do have one, don’t you?) is never a bad idea. In addition to redirecting your focus back onto your mission while you’re deciding how to proceed, forming beneficial partnerships allows you to focus more of your energy back onto serving your clients and furthering your mission as an entrepreneur.
5) Grow your support network
Finally, any entrepreneur who’s been where you are can tell you this work is hard. It’s difficult to make a major change, take a financial risk, and maybe even leave a stable full-time job to make something you’re passionate about into your new career.
The most valuable advice you’ll receive on this journey will come from people who are doing the same thing, or have done it recently. You should make sure to hold some of those people close in your own professional network, because you’ll need each other as a built-in support system when the going gets tough.
Check out more of Juan’s work at his website!
Are you a freelancer or entrepreneur looking for valuable connections? Reach out in the comments and let’s see if we can help each other!