A Fair Trade Friday Insight: Partnerships matter personally and professionally, because we are better together than we are apart.


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I was recently at a conference consulting on fair trade, product development, and some other small business subjects. The question of partnership came up frequently, usually with much fear and trepidation. Admittedly, it is a challenge and a risk to trust something you are building (or have built) with another person or entity. However, well-rooted trees do not exist on one root alone.

Businesses and organizations that have partnerships are a lot like trees: multiple limbs, a strong, interwoven web of roots, long reaching branches, and bearing consistently fruit (usually because of frequent pruning).

So how do you plant your “tree” or partnership well? Here are some best practices I have found:

1. The partnership offer makes sense. If your company sells jewelry, partnering with a toy company is not a likely set up for success. Ask yourself: “Does the partnership make sense?” A scenario that makes sense: you sell jewelry and you are looking to partner with a company that makes bags. Is it possible for them to do branded packaging for your product? The marriage of these two companies would be ideal, as you would have branded packaging and they would have new client. Product tip: pitching a line of scarves to a retailer that already has a line of scarves is not added value. Pitch an accessory to them that they do not yet have (necklace? headband? wrap bracelet? earrings?).

2. The partnership is mutually beneficial. When you are looking to partner with someone, make a list of things you bring to the table that add value to what they (potential partner) are doing. Ask yourself: How does what we do add to what they are looking to accomplish? Is what we offer helping them to achieve their goals? How do we add value (financially, strategically, with our customers, etc.)? Is our X (product, service, customer base, content,  system, etc.) unique in a way that would give leverage to the potential partnering company? Approaching a potential partner with what you add to the table is key. Budding a branch on a tree that bears additional fruit is in the best interest of the tree and those it serves.

3. The most important question: “How can we help?” Whether a partnership works out or not, frequently ask this question of those you are looking to partner with: “How can we help?” Even if the timing for a partnership is not right, the ability to see past the present and offer help long-term, will go miles in any relationship.We are created to work together. So much in the natural world around us exists congruently with something else. Linking arms with others to accomplish a shared goal, strategy, or objective, drives us farther than walking alone. Asking how you can help communicates genuine interest in your shared goals and that official partnership is an added bonus, not a requirement to links arms.

Partnership tip: build in an evaluation method every six months. Ask yourself and the partnering company “is this helping? What is working? What is not working? Does anything need to be tweaked? Is there added info we can provide that would assist in your success?” The success of your partner equals your success.

What are some insights you have regarding partnerships? I’d love to hear them!

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