Ask these 6 questions before collaborating with another business

Partnerships can help you break into a new market or provide valuable resources–but you’ll want to do some strategic thinking first.

Ask these 6 questions before collaborating with another business
[Photo: LIgorko/iStock]

Collaborating with another business–especially if you’re the smaller fish–can be great. Leveraging another company’s audience and gaining access to their resources and knowledge might just be what you need to grow. But how do you know if the opportunity will be worthwhile?


Executive and leadership coach Greg Githens, author of How to Think Strategicallycautions business owners to make sure that any alliance is in line with their fundamental business strategy.

To avoid wasting precious time or resources, ask yourself these six questions before deciding to work with another company:

What is your business’s core challenge?

The best collaborations are those that help you to overcome your core challenge. But how can you do this if you aren’t clear about what that challenge is? Perhaps you are looking to break into a new market and a partnership can help you reduce barriers to entry or give you proprietary insight into that new market. Entering into a partnership without knowing what problem you’re trying to solve, or what result you’re hoping to achieve, is not going to be as successful as if you enter into a partnership with a clearly defined set of goals.

What are your brand’s values?

“Before you seek out a partnership, have a clear understanding of what your brand is about and what you’re looking for,” says Githens. Being clear about your values allows you to align yourself with a business that shares similar goals. Don’t assume that you know what the other company’s values are. Take the time to articulate your common vision and make sure that you’re on the same page.

Do you have enough time to invest in this collaboration?

Getting involved with another business can feel a lot like having multiple hands in the same pot. It can result in high management costs, slow certain processes, and, in some cases, the loss of strategic power if the business you partner with wants to have decision-making power. Githens says a successful collaboration starts with having a good strategy. “If you have a bad strategy, you’ll find it easier to succumb to the pressures of day-do-day operational firefighting and distractions,” he says. Be clear on your goals and how much time you are willing to invest.


What’s in it for them?

While it may be enticing to partner with someone who brings a lot to the table, when inviting someone to work with you, it’s important to focus on what you have to offer, rather than what they can do for you. What are you bringing to the partnership? Is it the size of your audience? Your skills and experience? Be clear on what your potential partner will gain from working with you before approaching them.

Is there a perfect partner in your own industry?

Sometimes the perfect alliance exists right next door. Githens talks about a recent experience in a French restaurant in Ireland. “I was sitting next to a door and every time it opened, it would allow in the boisterous cheer of the next-door pub,” says Githens. “The door was opening because the kitchen of the French restaurant was supplying the pub with its burgers and fish and chips.”

Though the restaurant and the pub could be considered competitors (since both are in the food industry), they each offered different experiences and target audiences, making for a perfect and convenient collaborative opportunity.

Can you test the collaboration first?

Before jumping into a contract, see if you can test the waters by working on a small event or project together. A test project will allow you to evaluate each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and working styles before getting into a more serious commitment.

About the author

Lisa Evans is a freelance writer from Toronto who covers topics related to mental and physical health. She strives to help readers make small changes to their daily habits that have a profound and lasting impact on their productivity and overall job satisfaction