How strategic partnerships can help grow your business
By ATB Financial 18 September 2020 4 min read
A strategic partner can provide invaluable support for your entrepreneurial vision. Finding that crucial ally can prove difficult, and time consuming. If you take the time to look, you might discover an extremely valuable ally who will take your business to the next level, says ATB Entrepreneur Strategist Aimee Parker.
Parker has firsthand experience benefitting from partnering. She co-founded Glam Artistry, a beauty business in St. Albert which specializes in high quality beauty services for bridal events.
In fact, even the company’s existence is owed to a strategic partnership: Parker and fellow founder Gretzie Parth were freelance makeup artists when they decided to team up some four years ago to start Glam Artistry.
Partnering within your industry
To get Glam Artistry into the ears of prospective clients, Parker took the unconventional step of teaming up with the competition, seeking out other businesses in the beauty industry sharing the same clientele.
When the company was in its early years, it partnered up with a local hair salon, dropping off makeup samples for the stylists to refer to their clients. Since the stylists weren’t directly competing with Glam Artistry, clients would presumably need both their hair and makeup done, they were only too happy to oblige.
“They had the same target audience, but they didn't necessarily offer the services that we offered,” says Parker. “So it was a really great mutual partnership, building that awareness for Glam Artistry and getting some clients through our door, as well as supporting their business.”
Glam Artistry followed the same model when it pivoted to focus exclusively on the bridal industry. Parker likes to bring packaged treats, along with makeup samples, into bridal shops to entice a potential customer. The personal touch makes a difference; instead of an email or social media post, or cold call easily dismissed, there is a stronger connection gained, and greater chance to land a new client.
Building partnerships requires building trust
It’s important to note, says Parker, that building a successful partnership requires time, and trust. Each side has to bring something to the table which will mutually benefit everyone.
“It’s the same as building a friendship,” she says. “You don't just go out for one dinner or one event. You're going to continue to nurture that relationship. I noticed the more touch points we had with our partners, the more we were able to get business from them and work together.”
Finding common ground in business
Relationships with direct competitors could even prove beneficial for everyone when there’s a shared goal.
Teaming up on a mutual endeavour, such as improving quality standards or pushing for more government support, can positively impact the industry as a whole, which is good for everyone with a stake. At the very least, it’s a good idea to know who your competitors are and start building a relationship with them.
Get on board with local chambers and business advocacy groups
Beyond partnerships with other businesses, joining a chamber of commerce or business development group could present the ideal team up. Such bodies advocate for small businesses as well as provide access to training and other educational skill boosts. Members pay a yearly fee to join.
The Alberta Chamber of Commerce regularly organizes networking events, providing members with many opportunities to grow their contact base. Through “lunch n’ learn” sessions and educational seminars, or webinars, participants can further their knowledge base and develop skills and tips for running a successful business.
Like its provincial counterpart, the Calgary Chamber of Commerce provides similar resources for its business members. Both bodies also advocate directly to government, providing feedback provided by members to ensure their interests are top of mind in the framing of new legislation and policy.
Other networking bodies like Business Network International (BNI) Alberta North operate by a referral system, and require stringent membership conditions. Even with such barriers to entry, small business entrepreneurs can strongly benefit.
“It's a little bit more of a proven networking model,” says Parker. “You're going to come out with strong referrals or leads rather than going to a networking event and just hoping you come across somebody that would be interested in your business.”
Business Link is a nonprofit funded by both the Alberta and federal government. It provides free support and resources for new business owners. Business Link also has specialized programs for both Indigenous and new Canadians to help with starting a new business.
“Their whole mandate is to support businesses through education and resources,” says Parker. “They can help with things like business planning, market research, regulation, being a partner as you're starting up.”
Strategic partnerships leads to strategic growth
Whatever partner you’re looking for, It’s always a great idea to look for “low hanging fruit” or areas which could be easily improved with a partnership, says Parker. In turn, catalogue your businesses’ core assets or strengths that would aid a potential ally. Businesses which can complement each other and overlap gaps in skills or resources make for the most ideal of partners.
Relying on strategic partnerships can result in new opportunities to grow a business in a way that was never possible going it alone. Partnering up could be the key investment you make for your business that pays off handsomely in the long run.
Approached right, a partnership will become the “gift that keeps giving,” a seemingly inexhaustible resource for attracting new clients, allowing all parties to prosper and grow together.
If you’re looking for a deep dive on everything you need to know around how to grow your business, our ATB X Accelerator program might be just the place for you. Alternatively, feel free to reach out to one of our entrepreneur strategists to explore where you are with your business, where you want to be, and how to get there!