Do you have a business partner? That might be easy to answer. Perhaps you’ve set up a company with someone else, in which case you very obviously do. Perhaps you’ve even officially constituted the company as a partnership.
However, many people who set up a business (including myself) go into it alone. In fact, if you’re like me, you might actually be the only person involved in the business. If that’s you, how can you have a business partner?
The reality, though, is that business isn’t a solo affair, even for a sole trader, and this is something I’ve been learning to take a lot more seriously lately.
On a couple of occasions over the last year, I’ve been faced with massive admin jobs that would have taken me at least a week to complete. That’s time I should be using to fulfil my obligations to my clients — not to mention my obligations to my bank balance. So I outsourced them to a VA.
I don’t outsource very much, but most small business owners do. There’s website design and management, of course (yes, I do outsource that), admin, bookkeeping and accountancy, HR and much else. Not to mention outsourcing the written marketing content that’s my livelihood.
Generally speaking, outsourcing is good practice. Of course, you have to have a strategy that identifies what can reasonably be outsourced and what can’t. It’s something I’m working on expanding more.
It could be argued, of course, that someone you hire to do a job isn’t really a partner. On the other hand, it could also be argued that the two of you are mutually benefiting each other’s business. However, another type of relationship I’m exploring is a more equal one — the strategic partnership.
In the past, for instance, when I’ve delivered a piece of writing to a client, I’ve been asked, “Great, can you design the document too?” I’ve had to say no, but I knew someone I could recommend. But wouldn’t it be better if I could say yes, pass it on to a designer I already have an arrangement with and deliver a complete job? And the designer could do the same if asked for written content.
You may have relationships like that, and it’s also an approach I’m working on expanding. But, whatever I’m asked for, the chances are that I can recommend someone, because of the network I’ve built up over the last five years. SMEs don’t function in isolation. It’s a community of mutual support. Even people who are in competition with me are part of my network, my community. In a broad sense, we’re all partners.
Image by aiesecgermany, shared under Creative Commons Licence