It takes two (or more)
The term sole trader has always conjured up a lonely mental image for me. I see an isolated individual, toiling away to make a profit from the fruits of the land. I see no loyalty-building dialogues with customers, no sounding board in the form of colleagues and no support network of peers. It’s a misleading phrase, and if anyone else has a mental image half as potent as mine, they could well be put off the idea of taking that dream of theirs and travelling down the start-up path.
Starting up a business, owning it and being solely responsible for its success doesn’t need to be a lonely and painful existence though. In today’s collaborative working culture, where transparency and personal development are actively encouraged, the idea of locking yourself away and struggling alone to make your business a success is an outdated and unnecessarily difficult approach to take. Creating partnerships and developing professional relationships brings a wealth of advantages to the ambitious business owner.
Partners exist for a reason
For a start, partnerships allow you to offer your customers more. You may have a product that you can sell directly to your customers, but do you have the resources and skills to take it through other channels? Partnerships can help you reach a wider audience and offer your customers more convenient ways to access your goods or services. Selling via a third party allows you to enhance your offering: whether it’s partnering with a retail outlet while you specialise in ecommerce, or teaming up with a business which offers gifting services during the Christmas season. The right partner can help you grow your business, while also allowing you to focus on your specialism and do what you do best.
In addition, partnerships and professional bodies provide for a wider skill base, complementary experiences and business acumen. For example, as a business founder you may have the technical background to help deliver the right product for your market, while you have a partner who is less informed on product but has stronger commercial skills. Very few individuals have all the skills and knowledge needed to run a business successfully. Teaming up with another will bring another set of skills, knowledge and experience.
It’s also worth researching available help for areas where you are lacking such as the government-funded Get Set for Growth, which offers financial and marketing experts to businesses, looking to accelerate growth.
Two heads are better than one
When you’re working alone and you have key decisions to make, how confident are you in making those choices, without peers to talk through risks and consequences? If you’ve partnered with individuals who bring skills to your business, then you’ll also be better placed to make better, more effective decisions. Partnership or professional relationships bring different perspectives to a challenge and nearly always ensure that different points of view are considered. In turn, being able to look at problems from many angles will help you to arrive at a considered (and arguably more creative) solution.
Fast tracking brand awareness
Marketing your business, when your target audience doesn’t know who you are or what you do is an arduous task and a strong marketing strategy will need to tackle this lack of awareness head on. Partnering with other, more established businesses, will help you to position your company as one that is trusted and endorsed by experts in the field. Plus, getting access to those potential customers when you don’t have a database of targets can be costly and ineffective. It’s far more effective to seek out opportunities where your partner can place you in front of their customers, via means such as email campaigns, webinars or joint PR. This trade of marketing assets can also help you to , for example if your partner tags you in a social media post.
Finally, consider the skills, knowledge and opportunities that you can offer a professional partner. If you’re a start-up business having partnerships and co-owners means you’re able to share the burden. Reciprocation is key. It can be stressful, lonely and frightening running a business alone. So if you are looking to gain something from making a new professional relationship, make sure you have something you can offer in return. The last thing you want to do is drive them to the hills.