How To Avoid Costly Partnerships When Running A Small Business

One of the biggest challenges as a business owner is how to juggle a multitude of tasks and prioritise. There are, of course, countless articles and books written about time management.

You started your business as you have an entrepreneurial streak in you. You are passionate about what you believe in and wish to embrace and deliver the products and services to help others.

Ah, the ‘others!’

Most have great intentions and some of them may want to collaborate or partner with you. There’s nothing wrong with that in principle as collaborating can be a great tactic but be careful. Very careful. Some can be very distracting and can eat up a lot of your time.

For example, how does collaborating and, thus, taking more responsibility for delivering their services as a partner sit with your business plan? Why should you add to your already busy working life and how will doing so benefit your customers and, of course, you too? There may be a financial reward, but have you really considered the amount of time being involved in a partnership takes?

If you are already collaborating with someone, take this quick time health check:

Simply perform a search in your email inbox from that person or organisation you are partnering with. Then do the same with your outbox. Scan those emails quickly and consider how much time and effort was expended reading and writing those emails. Remember, these are just the emails! We are not even covering the time you have spent with your partner in conversations when planning and executing your joint venture.

(If you don’t already have someone you collaborate with, carry out the above exercise by choosing a reasonably demanding client as a comparison. Not all partners are demanding of course however usually a lot of process is involved, hence this suggestion).

Chances are you may be surprised or even shocked. Is your current partnership worth it? – A contentious but important question.

Could your business have benefited more if you had spent the equivalent amount of time on your core business instead? It may be that your answer is an affirmative “No.”If the answer is “Yes”, then why are you wasting time? You tried collaborating with that person or organisation and perhaps it’s time to part amicably and concentrate on activity which will also exponentially benefit your revenues and profits. You may also find something called freedom again!

Others, (yes the ‘others’ again), will come at you, asking you out to coffee for example. You accept and when you meet, they pop that golden idea: “Let’s JV!” (Sometimes they don’t even ask!) Avoid giving an them answer during that meeting. You need time to qualify whether having such a joint venture will benefit your customers and, of course, you. It is not impolite to say that you need time to consider their idea. If practical, give them a timescale for when you will provide them with your answer. It also ensures that you have listened and have the respect to look into it if it is of interest. If you already know it’s not feasible to partner, then respond there and then so it doesn’t linger unnecessarily. Everyone loathes time wasting anyway.

What I have found in business is many jump at the chance at collaborating. You have the right to give yourself time. It’s precious. They mean well but many, unfortunately, do not give thorough consideration to the potential consequences. (Good or not-so-good). Will these people accelerate through excellence like you do or will you become frustrated with how they work?

Collaborating with others can be incredibly effective in growing your business. It strengthens your portfolio and reputation as someone who collaborates. Running a business can be lonely, so working in partnership also enables more interaction, especially if you are a solopreneur.

The real challenge is ensuring if working with someone else is a right fit. Be realistic. Some partnerships can go wrong very quickly and, let’s be frank, most of us have heard of – or even experienced – fallouts where partnerships have gone sour for various reasons.

As entrepreneurs, we are naturally inquisitive and want to help. Qualify partnerships well.

Don’t let that drive become an expensive or even painful one. Remember what you originally set out to do in business and why.


John Coupland
John Coupland
JOHN is an independent marketing consultant and is the bestselling author of ACCELerate™ Your Social Media. With extensive experience in e-business and ICT, he helps ambitious entrepreneurs, business owners, and corporates with their business growth using his unique and proven ACCELerate™ methodology. John speaks at leading business events, has written a number of articles for major publications worldwide, and is a member of The Brain Trust®, Small Business Advocate Show®, America. Amongst a number of awards, John played an instrumental role in helping a major UK department store chain achieve the Queen's Awards for Enterprise - Innovation. Learn more at ACCELerate™ Your Business

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    • Taking the time to review is certainly important, Kathleen. We can all easily get swamped with so much to do. Looking at the bigger picture is vital of course.