Think Ahead – Strategic Partnerships

When you start thinking strategic partnerships, think about what you don’t have that you need to move your business to the next level. For instance, if you’ve developed a unique product, but lack a mass distribution system, what companies would have a distribution system that could be utilized to get your product into the hands of the masses? You may need to give up a bit of your revenue per sale, but when you weigh that against the time and money it would take to build your own distribution system, you will most likely decide that it is a small price to pay.

Protect yourself and your ideas

Before you approach a larger company about a strategic partnership, make sure you’ve thought ahead and protected yourself and your product with the necessary patents, trademarks, and non-disclosure agreements. This is an important and necessary step for you to take. There is more than one tale of woe of an unsuspecting entrepreneur sharing an idea or product prototype only to see it on the market a few months later. Your attorney can help you draw up the necessary paperwork.

Research pays off

Make sure you research your potential strategic partner ahead of time. Find out all you can about the company. Study their offerings and determine if your product is a good addition or improvement to their current offerings. Ask people in the industry what they know about the company. A company with a reputation for treating strategic partners poorly in more than one instance is most likely a company to be avoided. On the flip side, a company with a track record for treating their partners fairly can be a great find. You want to partner with a company that has a great reputation, because you’re tying your reputation to theirs.

Plan for contingencies

Once you’ve decided to work together, think ahead to the “what ifs” of your agreement. What if things don’t work out as you planned? When you draw up your agreement, make sure that you have an “out” clause, just in case. Perhaps you’ll want to run a trial period to see how many units of your product your new partner can actually move, or how well they are able to fulfill orders. By putting a time-line or quantifying number in your contract, you’ll be better able to gauge whether the partnership is working how you had hoped or not. If not, you can move on in your search for a new strategic partner.

Long-term relations

When looking at a potential strategic partner, you should take into consideration your future product offerings. Look ahead to what you want to accomplish as a company. Before you form your strategic alliance, know where you want to go with your company. Think ahead to the possibilities. Will your potential partner be able to help distribute other products into the marketplace? While you don’t need to lay all your cards on the table when you’re forming a strategic alliance, look for the strongest possible strategic partner so that you can work towards to developing a long-term working relationship once you’ve made it through an initial project or two.

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