3 Things Small Businesses Should Look For in Partnerships 

business partnerships

When one small business partners up with another business, it’s typically a win-win for customers. Two of their favorite brands are joining forces to bring them more of the products and services that they crave in a natural collaboration. However, it’s just as important that while the partnership provides customers with what they want, both businesses involved are building a strong rapport together and have an understanding about each of their roles. Whether you’ve partnered with another company before or this is your first time doing so, here’s what you need to consider before getting started.

What are your shared interests?

Spotify and Starbucks, Apple and IBM, H&M and fashion houses like Alexander Wang and Balmain. No great brand partnership happens on accident, but rather they serve as strategic building blocks to help take each respective business further.

When determining who your partner should be, look for the shared interests and values. If both companies are similarly aligned, there’s a good chance there will be potential for customer overlap with an audience that knows (and loves) what both of these businesses are offering.

An outline of expectations and obligations

What am I supposed to do in this partnership, anyway? In order to get on the same page, it’s a good idea to have a strong, written agreement in place that outlines the expectations and obligations of the collaboration. Otherwise, instead of both parties working together you could be stuck with one party basically asking for the other’s customer list — and that kills the point of the partnership. If you’re working on creating that agreement now, here are a few must-cover elements to include.

  • Balance. Make sure that duties are balanced between both businesses so that one side isn’t doing all or not enough of the workload. Additionally, the businesses should be just as balanced as their responsibilities. It can be a nightmare if one partner is too pushy or aggressive!

  • Shared reciprocity. The best partnerships leverage the strengths that each side has to offer in order to create smart offerings for customers that are truly valuable. Define the obligations of each party so they know what they’re doing and outline expectations in the event that one side expects too much/little out of the agreement.

  • Offer up a trial run. Before going live, try out a test run so that expectations remain tempered and the trial gives both sides a taste of what the partnership could shape up to be like. If you’re a little nervous to collaborate with a business for the first time or fairly new to the startup world, this might be your best introduction to partnerships.

Practice patience —strong partnerships take time to build

From the start, make sure that everyone is on the same page about one of the least-discussed aspects of a partnership: the fact that it takes time to build up and understand one together. Rather than expect overnight success, treat the partnership like you would any other relationship you’re in. Be open-minded about making adjustments along the way and remember that much like life, a partnership is not a sprint. It’s a marathon and one that you can only continue to work hard and grow in together.


Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best. Follow her on Google+ and on Twitter @mycorporation.

Please note that KPMG Spark’s sponsorship of this blog article is not intended to address the specific circumstances of any particular individual or entity and does not constitute an endorsement of any entity or its products or services. This content represents the views of the author, and does not necessarily represent the views or professional advice of KPMG Spark.