Collaborative business relationships are welcome!
My business career recently entered its fifth decade. My first business was raising and selling sweet corn in Skippack PA in the western suburbs of Philadelphia. That project started at age 16 in 1976 and helped provide cash into college. Then jumping forward to my recent 57th birthday celebration at Money Island New Jersey where I was privileged to introduce new associates in my latest business venture in crab aquaculture. Over this span of 40 years, I’ve enjoyed opportunities to work with hundreds of other small businesses in a range of industries from professionals to nonprofits, insurance, employee benefits, agriculture, aquaculture and construction. I can’t help but to notice that some of those relationships are more successful and thrive while others fail. Over time, I’ve recognized that the types of relationships that work well for me fall into the successful group I call “collaborative” and the unsuccessful relationships that I call “hope”. My entire practice is now focused on developing more of these collaborative relationships where the result is more than a common buy/sell business transaction. Business relationships are based on achieving measurable and verifiable results are the future! Here are some examples:
These are the types of collaborative relationships that have been successful in the past and would be welcome in the future:
- Sales Representative Relationships: You offer a product or service and I market it on a consignment basis or contingent fee basis. This is a legitimate relationship for CPAs as long as the arrangement is publicly disclosed to clients.
- Business Development: We form a joint venture (that may or may not develop into a formal partnership later) based on splitting the result of our collective work. This seems to be my most common and successful business model.
- Collaborative Marketing: We author an article or book together or jointly produce a public demonstration. I am a guest on your event, TV or radio show or appear in your print or online publication and we both market that product to our audience. Conversely, you might attend an event that I host as a quest speaker or presenter.
- Barter: I provide some product or service to you in exchange for you providing some product or service to me.
In contrast, ‘Hope’ relationships that have not been successful in the past and would not be welcome in the future:
- Purchases: I pay you in advance to provide a product, coaching, marketing, advertising, leads, program etc. and we hope that it works. If it does not work as intended then you’ve already been paid and can walk away from the relationship with no consequences. I just don’t like the lack of accountability.
- Referrals: I refer a person or business client to you and I hope that it works out, I hope that the client is happy with the referral and I hope that we might do other business in the future. That’s just not the way I work. I prefer to remain involved in a joint work situation.
- Regulated Industries: In these situations our business relationship is governed by regulations that control your industry (like financial services) may control what I can say about you, your products and your industry. There is risk that my uncensored expression can get us into regulatory trouble. It is best to just stay away from that risk. Even so, my most successful and profitable relationships are with firms in the financial services industry where we were able to build an active collaborative working partnership rather than a ‘hope relationship’.
I welcome opportunities to talk, meet, and discuss ideas that fall into the first group but please don’t waste my time with proposals that fall into the second group!