Networking vs. Partnering: An accountant’s effort to balance the flow of new business prospects

One of my two marketing goals* for 2016 is to get away from networking and move toward partnering. Specifically, I am determined to avoid repeating the 2015 disaster where I gave out over 80 business referrals but received zero in return.

The concept of “networking partner” and “referral partner” have entered the conversation lately. I hear these term used often but I have not effectively incorporated them into my practice. This is certainly an evolving project and so I expect to spend more time developing these concepts as they relate to my own work.

I started this year by asking myself “What is the difference between a networker and a partner?” That turns out to have a simple answer for me: partners don’t charge each other for services up front but rather share in the outcome of their joint work. Networkers, on the other hand, want my clients’ contact information or calls from my clients with no expectation of sharing the outcome of the joint work. I have plenty of networkers trying to sell services to me and my clients that will boost our businesses. No doubt, but no more. This simply isn’t working for me. There is no accountability in these relationships and cash flow is a huge concern for me in the beginning of my second year in business no matter how promising the results of your service.

Instead, I need to ask my business relationships “Are you interested in partnership work?” and “Are you authorized to negotiate partnership work for your company or is it appropriate do this at a personal level?”.

My first big task in 2016 is to make it clear to new and existing relationships that I am primarily seeking partners, not networkers in high potential projects. Yet partnering is not practical in many or most types of business projects. In those cases, a restructuring of bundled services to include referral services will be necessary.

The next immediate task is to re-engineer some provisions in my client engagement agreements. Engagement agreements agreements are carefully worded business documents (emails in my case) to specify the terms of service, fees, potential liabilities and other details. Some clients will embrace this new approach, others will avoid it. I’ve already had one firm say “we don’t do business that way”. That’s fine; they won’t get any more referrals from me in 2016.

Thanks to Sara, Don, Jo, Francine and others for your generous help into the lessons I’ve learned so far.

*The other 2016 marketing goal is to diversify from 100% written media (blogging and typed social media posts) to expand to a mix of audio and video. This effort is still in exploratory stage but I expect to post about progress soon).


2 responses to “Networking vs. Partnering: An accountant’s effort to balance the flow of new business prospects”

  1. .Tony -this is one great post ….a well-stated redirection of your approach that really hit home with me in that I printed it out & put on my wall as a reminder when I network too much instead of seeking out real alliances with other complimentary business ….

  2. Thanks Earl. Your insight and generous coaching have been invaluable to me. I specifically did not mention you in the “thanks” line of this post only because our discussions have focused more on different “big picture” issues and not on this specific topic. Yet please be aware that I value the advice that you’ve offered at the highest level.

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