The essential relationships that strengthen your business

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When one thinks about the opportunity to strengthen a business, three areas readily come to mind:

< Strategic alliances.

< Strategic partners.

< Strategic sourcers.

Each of these areas has members specifically selected to help grow and sustain a business.

However, you must first know where you are headed and understand the role that each of these areas might bring to helping you meet your goal or solution.

There also are issues of trust and confidentiality. You must feel comfortable in being able to share not only a direction but also your challenges and mistakes.

STRATEGIC ALLIANCES

Strategic alliances are the people or businesses that you select to be a part of your business think tank. Generally, these six to 10 people come from diverse backgrounds and have diverse experiences.

They are people with whom you are most comfortable with sharing the nuts-and-bolts details of your business. You access their knowledge to help you better understand your challenges and opportunities – and to help you think through situations.

According to Napoleon Hill, who created the concept about 75 years ago, this junto or mastermind group helps round out your information and knowledge. There is a mutual give and take of information among members.

Local chambers of commerce have been providing a platform for establishment of mastermind groups since the mid-1980s.

How does a mastermind work?

“A group of smart people meet weekly, monthly, daily even if it makes sense, to tackle challenges and problems together,” writes Stephanie Burns on forbes.com. “They lean on each other, give advice, share connections and do business with each other when appropriate.

“It’s very much peer-to-peer mentoring, and if you are lucky enough to get invited to one, you will most likely see a marked change in yourself and your business.”

STRATEGIC PARTNERS

Unlike a formal partnership, strategic partners usually are the paid professionals that you need to help keep your business functioning. The list may include an accountant, attorney, banker, insurance professional, real estate agent and business coach.

These people guide you in their area of expertise and should be included in early stage thoughts when making a significant addition or direction change. They have a vested interest in your success and, therefore, should be a part of your business team.

A strategic partnership is defined as a relationship between two commercial enterprises, usually formalized by one or more business contracts.

Often, it falls short of a legal partnership and could just be a handshake agreement. Other times, though, it can involve formal contracts and equity alliances.

STRATEGIC SOURCERS

Strategic sourcers are those suppliers of primary goods and services – other than strategic partners – that are important to be able to reach your end user.

If one of these is not helping you get to your desired future, find a replacement. These suppliers might be independent contractors, a manufacturer or a business services provider.

All businesses, not just manufacturers, have a supply chain. A supply chain involves the steps required to get products or services to the market. And when you think about critical needs of your supply chain, determine the weak link and how to repair or replace it.

Strategic relationships are critical no matter the business size. There is a level of insight and expertise that all provide.

Not the least of these would be a desire for your business success. After all, everyone likes to be associated with a successful venture.

These relationships infer a level of accountability on the part of the business owner. This includes the ability to take information, use it appropriately and report back on its impact.

Sally Handlon is founder and president of Handlon Business Resources of Bethlehem. Since 2006, her company has been a leading sourcing connection for a variety of regional and global businesses seeking to forge strong supply chain relationships. She can be reached at 484-241-4124 or sally@hbrllc.com.

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