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Partnerships

Win-Win: Strategically Partner With Your Top Competitors

Many entrepreneurs fail to see the positive potential of a strategic partnership or some other type of collaborative relationship with competitors. Sometimes you have to put aside the emotion and the passion and just look at what is best for your business.

Martin Zwilling

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Entrepreneurs seem to have blinders on when looking at competitors. Generally, they are so focused on killing competitors that they fail to see the positive potential of a strategic partnership or some other type of collaborative relationship.

Sometimes you have to put aside the emotion and the passion and just look at what is best for your business.

Strategic partnerships in this context can take the form of joint ventures, intellectual-property licensing, outsourcing agreements or even cooperative research. All of these offer the potential for a win-win relationship with a nominal competitor, rather than a win-lose deal, as long as both sides can remain humble and not try to dominate the relationship.

Always start with a formal proposal, limited in scope to a specific common objective or technology, for a limited amount of time, bounded by a two-way non-disclosure statement. With this agreement in place, there are a host of ways that both sides can win:

Share common technology.

Every startup has a core competency that should not be shared. Beyond that, there may be a large percentage of common technology where they both need to minimise cost to gain share from the big dinosaurs who already have this advantage.

Expand the market for both.

Typically, there are market opportunities that neither of your core competencies can win alone. A strategic evolution of your combined strengths may be able to open up a new segment that neither of you could do alone in the same timeframe or at the same cost.

Up-sell related products or cross endorsement.

If your customers would benefit by having products from both companies, you might negotiate the opportunity to include the other’s product as an add-on. Where your competitor isn’t really competing with your direct market, you can refer business to each other without anyone losing customers.

Benchmark your practices against a true peer.

The best way to do this is to establish specific performance targets with incentive-based rewards for meeting and exceeding these targets. The information exchange from day-to-day interactions of engineers and marketers will drive you to enhance your own processes to be more competitive.

Expand core competency and solidify strengths.

Both partners must not forget they are still competitors. By sharing and learning in non-competing areas, they can focus their limited resources on solidifying their core competencies and expanding their unique segment of the market. Let market response dictate a later split, merger or acquisition.

Learn from each other.

No entrepreneur has all the insights they need, and none should be so arrogant as to assume they hold all the cards. Of course, it’s important to start with a bounded agreement that clearly lays out expectations and areas that are off-limits.

Think about the future.

Once you have established your credibility and value, a strategic partnership may extend to a financial relationship. The other company may have the finances you need to invest in a business area they know, where you have the core competency. Longer term, when ready, it may be time for merger or acquisition.

While most entrepreneurs think of strategic partnerships as big company deals, it actually works better for small companies. In large corporate environments, competitor cultures may be so set that collaboration is difficult, while I find that small company peer competitors usually have no trouble at all getting along. The industry leader arrogance has not yet set in.

Even for small companies, it is critical that all employees be well-informed about what skills, technology and information can be shared with their partner and what is off-limits.

This will offset the normal instinct to think of a competitor only as a threat. It is smarter to capitalise on the positive aspects of a competitive situation rather than killing each other so no one wins.

Martin Zwilling is a veteran startup mentor, executive, blogger, author, tech professional, and angel investor. Contact him at at marty@startupprofessionals.com

Partnerships

Alan Knott-Craig Answers: How To Find Partners And Navigate The Partnership Territory

Most businesses are built on some form of partnership, from co-founders to investment deals. Here’s how to find partners and navigate partnership territory.

Alan Knott-Craig

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How do you find the right partners? — Johnny

The best way to find partners is to make it easy for them to find you. Speak at conferences, write a blog, write books, do media interviews, make it easy for people to notice you. With some luck someone will approach you and voila, you’ll have a potential partner. The real challenge is knowing whether they are the right partner.

The only way you will find the right partner is if you are totally honest about yourself. The only way you can be totally honest about yourself is to know yourself.

To know yourself, you need to take risks. Lots of risks. Fall in love, start businesses, travel, meet new people, do public speeches. Keep taking risks. Sometimes you’ll win, most times you’ll fail.

It’s in failure that you’ll find out how you respond to setbacks, what is important to you, what type of people you gel with. One of the biggest risks you’ll take is choosing a business partner. If you make a mistake, it’s painful, but you then know more about yourself and will find it easier to find the right partner next time. Take risks.

Related: Alan Knott-Craig Answers: How To Build A Debt-Free Business

How do I discipline a senior executive in my business? We’ve been partners for over two years, he’s helped me enormously, but he recently crossed a line with one of our staff members and I’m not sure how to handle the situation. — Busi

Start with having a disciplinary code and disciplinary process that describes the steps to be taken in the event of an employee contravening the code.

You then need to call in your partner, have a witness present, and get his side of the story. If the issue can be explained away, problem solved.

If not, you have to follow your disciplinary process to the T. If anything, you must be overly strict. You must over-react.

You have to show the rest of your staff that no one is above the law. If you don’t, don’t be surprised if your staff become demoralised and disrespect you and your disciplinary code.

Related: Alan Knott-Craig Answers Your Questions On Money And Partners

I’m a CEO of a small business. We’ve recently had some HR issues. What’s the right response to gender or racial discrimination in the office?  — Vusiswa

No company in South Africa can tolerate gender or racial discrimination. Immediately start a disciplinary process, act firmly and publicly. Make an example of the situation. Draw a line far away from anything that could be construed as offensive, and make sure your entire team knows where that line is.

The first offenders should be used as public examples. Tough luck for them, but the best way to save others from doing the wrong thing is to over-punish the first offender.

I’m losing the confidence of my investors. What do I do? — Belinda

There are a couple of reasons for losing investor confidence:

  1. They think you’re incompetent. Only you know whether that is true. If true, there is no escaping this truth. Your only option is to find someone else to run your business. That action will rebuild investor confidence.
  2. They think you’re a liar. If you’re a liar, you will eventually be caught out. Investors will forgive incompetence, but they’ll never forgive fraud.
  3. You are not delivering on the promises you made. This doesn’t necessarily mean you are incompetent. It means you over-promised. The solution is simple: Stop over-promising. If you think you’ll do 20% sales growth, promise 10%. Get into the habit of giving yourself a margin of error. If you keep your promises, your investors will back you.

 


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Public Private Partnerships Can Work For Entrepreneurs

Property Point will develop 16 small business in the property sector of which two thirds are youth and women owned.

Property Point

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In a landmark partnership for collective economic growth in South Africa, the Department of Small Business Development (DSBD) joined forces with Property Point, a Growthpoint Properties initiative, to develop more small businesses for South Africa’s property sector. DSBD has allocated a R5 million grant to Property Point for a one-year small business development programme as part of its Enterprise Incubation Programme (EIP). This breakthrough initiative is the first public-private partnership of its kind in the property sector. It will develop 16 small businesses in the property sector of which two thirds are youth and woman-owned.

For  this  unique  16-business  intake,  Property  Point’s  programme  is powerfully market driven. It will raise the profile of the entrepreneurs and strengthen their competitiveness, with a deep focus on market integration. The programme aims to create market linkages for these small businesses that will see them included in procurement opportunities in the broader property sector, as well as Growthpoint. It is expected to set new benchmarks for small business integration into private sector supply chains.

Related: 4 Black-Owned Businesses Participating in This Enterprise Development Programme That Are Growing – Fast

Estienne de Klerk, CEO of Growthpoint South Africa, says: “We believe in the principles of social and economic transformation and empowerment on all levels, and we are committed to achieving this. As a hands-on property owner, we own and manage our buildings – we recognise our unique position to develop small businesses to increase their access to market opportunities. We are proud to contribute to this pioneering public-private partnership designed to deliver on South Africa’s transformation, small business, economic growth and job creation objectives.”

Shawn Theunissen, head of Property Point and head of Corporate Social Responsibility for Growthpoint Properties, says:

“Property Point’s  objective  has  always  been  to  contribute  to  South  Africa’s economic growth. Using a best practice model, we have delivered positive results in our new partnership with government. This will escalate our impact on transforming the economy at a crucial time when South Africa is dealing with high unemployment and low economic growth.”

The beneficiaries of the Property Point and DSBD partnership have advice on how other entrepreneurs can make the most out of similar programmes:

Advice from Zoleka Ngema of Senzee Trading

zoleka

Contact www.senzee.co.za.

  • Be honest this helps you define your position and helps you view the real issues in your business.
  • Do every task diligently every business is different and what works for one might not work for you, so working diligently personifies the tasks and therefore adds value to your business.
  • Lessons are continuous remember & do the tasks done as these will create a cycle of growth even after the course is over.

Related: Want To Start A Property Business That Buys Property And Rents It Out?

Advice from Sibongile Shikwambana of Sandwind Coatings

sibongile-shikwambana

Contact www.sandwind.co.za.

  • Be fully present, participate and take advantage of every single opportunity
  • Drive your own business agenda; recognise that you and no one else can make your business successful
  • Build and maintain meaningful relationships.

Advice from Teko Motlhabi of Techmo Air

teko-motlhabi

Contact www.techmoair.com

  • Try to be present and involved with all the activities and opportunities handed to you
  • Ask for help from the Programme Managers and the rest of the team when you need it
  • Create relationships with your fellow entrepreneurs and collaborate.

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Partnerships

How To Partner Successfully With A Younger Boss

Age sometimes seems a lot more than just a number

John Boitnott

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Just a few years ago, millennials surpassed Generation Xers to become the largest cohort in the United States workforce, according to PEW research. As a result, more and more young people are assuming positions of management.

Being managed by someone younger can feel uncomfortable.

I have to admit, I get into the habit of comparing myself to other people. Those who are younger than us who have advanced further professionally can make us feel inadequate or resentful.

At one of the start-ups where I worked, one co-founder was a decade younger than me. At first I felt awkward with the heavy slate of marketing, sales and social media duties she assigned me. It wasn’t too long, though, before we settled into a groove and formed a strong working relationship.

Creating a bond with a younger manager can have significant positive effects on your own career. Here’s how you should manage it:

Identify skills that helped your boss advance and develop them in yourself

Even innovative businesses will adhere to rules of thumb. One rule of thumb many business leaders believe, rightly or wrongly, is that experience is valuable in and of itself. If your manager is younger than you, it means she probably had to overcome stereotypes and false assessments to get there.

Rather than assume your manager is a young punk who had a managerial role handed to her, work on identifying the skills that helped your boss to succeed. By developing the same skills within yourself, you’ll be more likely to enter a managerial role as well.

Related: How To Work Less And Still Get More Done

To get started, consider asking your manager point blank to identify the skills that she thinks were most useful in propelling her career forward. Once identified, make it clear that it’s a goal to develop those same skills within yourself. A good manager will take this conversation as a sign that you are a driven professional.

Alternatively, you could have a conversation with the person who decided to promote your manager in the first place. As long as you position your question to ensure that it sounds like it’s coming from a good place, the senior manager should have no problem sharing this information with you.

Think of your relationship as a partnership

Your manager is not your parent or your babysitter. If it feels as though your manager is overbearing, have a conversation with her about it. Otherwise, you should treat the relationship you have with your manager as a partnership.

Chances are you are both being evaluated on the same or similar metrics. If you fail, your manager fails, and if your manager fails, you fail. By changing your perspective on this important professional relationship, you may find working with a manager who is younger than you to be more comfortable.

Related: Build Better Business Relationships

Most managers simply want to ensure that whatever they’re working on is completed in the best way possible. They’ll be happy to work with employees who are collaborative, open to new ideas and motivated to get the job done.

In return, a manager who is satisfied with your work can make it more likely that you will also find yourself in a management role someday. If nothing else, you can consider leaving your current company and listing your current manager as a reference if you are able to develop a strong relationship.

Trade experience for new ideas

Both you and your manager have important knowledge that can be made more valuable when put together. You probably have accumulated wisdom from on the job experience, and your manager might have a fresh perspective or innovative new ideas.

Together wisdom and innovation can form a valuable pair that propels both you and your manager to success.

Make sure you make it clear that you are open to new perspectives and new ideas, and offer your experience when appropriate to guide your manager to making smarter choices.

Encourage open feedback in both directions

goldman-sachsFeedback is a critical component of professional growth. So much so that companies like Goldman Sachs are overhauling their feedback processes to boost employee performance. As a younger manager, she may feel anxious or conflicted about providing you with honest feedback. Instead, “manage up” and invite your manager to provide you with honest feedback.

In doing so, you will also set expectations that your manager should invite candidate feedback from you as well. By creating open dialogue between you and your manager, you’ll accelerate your professional learning curve and avoid passive aggressive moments.

Related: 7 Tips For Purposeful Communication To Better Lead Your Teams

Though your manager may be younger than you, she earned the privilege of managing a team for a reason. As an ambitious professional, it’s your job to understand why your manager earned that role and to begin cultivating the same skills within yourself.

Instead of feeling resentful, partner with your manager to share feedback and wisdom as you both work to achieve success.

By committing yourself to professional self-improvement, you may soon find yourself managing your own team of people who are older than you.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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