Who Should You Get In Bed With? Ask These 4 Questions Before Starting Any Business Partnership

by: Adam Lupu

Last time I wrote about finding (and being) a good co-founder. But, not every partnership is between two or more individuals. Sometimes, building a business means building relationships with other organizations. I discovered this recently as I continue to build my learning technologies business.

A few weeks ago, I began a partnership with Mobile Makers Academy. I decided to form this partnership using the following questions as a guiding framework. In case you find yourself facing a similar opportunity as you develop your own business, I offer these thoughts. After you’ve had a chance to pick through my process, tell us your own.

Question #1: How well do we work with the leaders of the organization?

If we don’t enjoy working with a group of people, why partner with them? It would be like entering a bad (or boring) romantic relationship just because you think you should be in one. It will end in frustration and represents a waste of your time. But how do you determine whether you actually become a better business person when working with these particular individuals? I try to gauge how energized I feel when working with them. To do this, I use the meeting test. At Mobile Makers, I can begin a meeting tired and distracted and end the meeting focused and rejuvenated. When you meet with the leaders of your potential partner organization, do you leave full of ideas on how to make your business better? Or do you leave more exhausted than when you entered?

Question #2: How do the benefits they offer stack up against the priorities of our company?

We can’t just partner with another company because we get along with them. They also have to benefit us in a way that supports our company’s short- and long-term visions. When you’re considering a partnership, it’s a great opportunity to revisit the priorities of your company. Do you need cash? Do you need design help? Do you need someone to help you make a change? What is it that will be most valuable to your company over the next 3-9 months? The answers to these questions help us measure the alignment between our company and our potential partner. Mobile Makers offers me the opportunity to train and hire mobile developers and connect with other companies as they enter the mobile space. I also get to help them design the best training program possible, so no matter how difficult it becomes to find quality mobile developers, my company can grow and cultivate its talent.

Question #3: What will it take to sustain this partnership?

Sometimes relationship maintenance is worth it, sometimes it isn’t. How do we know when the work we do to make things work isn’t worth the benefits we’re getting from our relationship? For an answer to these questions, I look at the response time to my emails and phone calls as well as the number of communications I have to initiate each week. If these numbers are both relatively low when compared to the business value I’m receiving from the partnership, then I consider it a good relationship.

Question #4: What is the opportunity cost involved with saying yes or saying no?

If you say no, what might you lose? If you say yes, what might you have to change? How difficult would it be to create this partnership with another organization or at a later date? When we believe we can create a sustainable, mutually beneficial business relationship with people we enjoy, we are left with the question of opportunity cost. I like to measure this by looking at the simplicity of the agreement. Is it easy to reach an agreement? How hard would it be to reach a similar agreement with another organization? Sometimes the opportunity of a partnership is worth a little extra effort now, to save ourselves from having to make even more effort later.

Consider these four questions when you’re deciding on your next business partnership with an organization or cooperating company. And if you have some of your own, please share them here. I would love to get your feedback.

Adam’s column, Mission Control, is about launching a startup and tracking its rise. From overcoming setbacks to ultimately (fingers crossed) fulfilling his mission, Adam Lupu offers his inner thoughts and outer workings while building a company. Read more of Adam’s “Mission Control” column here. *

About the author Adam Lupu @HowWeLearn
Adam Lupu is a Learning Architect designing and building new structures in education and technology. He is currently founding The Delta Program, a technology training and immersive learning environment specializing in Android Development. Lupu also works with international non-profit Global Playground to unite children across the world in learning and play. A former math and physics teacher, Adam has a Masters in Learning Sciences from Northwestern University and can be found tweeting @HowWeLearn, proudly shouting "Maybe next year!" outside Wrigley Field, or enjoying a Freebirds burrito in Austin, TX.

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