My wife and I have had to give up a lot of recently. Between having a five month old foster child at home and both of us working extra hours at work and on our volunteer activities, extra time has not been on our side. As a result, we have been refining our television viewing and have given up the vast majority of shows that we used to watch every week, and while many fun shows have found their way to the cutting room floor, one show in particular has continued its hold on the top spot in our TV hierarchy: The Walking Dead. Despite how entertaining it is seeing people fight zombies for survival, the real connection to the show (for my wife and I, at least) is the humanity of the characters. Over the years, many of the original group have lost the battle for survival, some of those willingly giving up the fight. They gave up because they lost hope. The ones that continue—go on—are the ones that really have something to fight for – something that they cannot lose. Their backs are to the wall and there is no going back – it’s survival or bust.
In the time since the apocalypse, we have seen two types of people emerge, as living in a barren wasteland that used to be one’s neighborhood changes a person. There are those who have become hardened, rough people who are willing to kill over the chance to sleep on a mattress for even just one night and those who believe that life is about community and working together is the only way for survival and ultimate victory. Our show’s hero, Rick Grimes, while definitely could be a survivor totally on his own, has become the spokesman for teamwork. Unfortunately, this has made for some difficult decisions and heart-breaking losses at the hands of others.
The Cut-Throat Game of Business Can Still be a Team Game
In the video clip we watch firsthand the consequences of people who do not believe in common goals (or even common good). They are only out for themselves and have no problem bullying (and killing) their way through this new life of theirs. Business, just like Georgia, is a cut-throat game. Isolation and loneliness set in quickly when it becomes you against the world in your own personal fight for business survival. And, the sad part is that this is a common belief. Because we understand the nature of humanity we know what to expect; from ourselves and from others. Good will (though is does still exist) is not a regular practice in today’s board rooms. This makes your business’ survival doubly difficult.
Through personal experience (and mounds of evidence), I have no doubt that the best way to grow a business is by partnering (in various degrees) with other, like-minded companies. Business partnerships (I like to call it business fusion) are agreements between businesses that can range from informal referral agreements and contract cost and revenue sharing plans. For example; in 2012, a Godfather’s Pizza franchise wanted to increase buzz about his store and make it easier to include upsells in every order. The cost for different options, however was prohibitive. Coca-Cola stepped in and placed their touch screen Freestlye fountain machines at their locations in Missouri. The machine would offer products and automatically send data to Coke allowing Coke to send needed reorders easily. Coke was purely concerned about their business (not Godfather’s) but they saw a way for both companies to profit and that worked well.
The truth is, you cannot rely on another company’s good graces to help you out; but creative thinking and a little bit of sharing can go a long way. For another example (more on a small business level), I was trying to think of a way to say “thank you” to my clients and I came up with the idea of giving a gift basket to them after completing a website project. I wanted to make sure we had regular and consistent reminders of what we did for them and their business, but I also wanted to help connect them with other clients of ours. My idea was that the more they connected with other clients of mine, the more it would squarely plant me in the middle of their minds and businesses for a long time to come. To make this work, I went to other clients (one of whom was a winery) and presented my idea. I told them I would give away a bottle of their wine as a thank you, in turn helping them brand their product and gain new customers. To help make this cost effective, I asked if they would give a discount on the wine (I would never ask for anything for free – this only works if everyone profits). They did and the gifts worked like a charm.
Step One for Business Partnerships: Reach out to Similar Industries
How do you do this? Simple: be the one to act. Be the one who thinks of what is best for the others involved. Don’t be the nice person that gets trampled, but be the irreplaceable person whom others rely on as their business connector. Give before you receive. Seek ways for other businesses to profit. Then propose ideas that would increase revenue and profits for all the people involved. Be willing to pay enough so someone else makes money. Innovate opportunities that can help both you and others make more revenue for less cost.
Start by finding people in industries similar to your own. Are you a carpenter? Then make connections with hardware suppliers, remodeling contractors, real estate agents, etc… Find ways to help them – maybe suggest to a real estate agent a discounted price to help them make sure their homes are perfectly staged for the sale. How about agreeing to exclusively use a particular hardware company if they will let you have a display in the store? These are just some basic ideas from a guy who works in web design and marketing. All you need to do is look at with you need from them and what they need from you and offer a way to make it easy on your both.
“Referral partners are important because it leverages your time. Let’s say you’re a photographer that specializes in Family Portraits. Of course, you could try to target every family within a 50 mile radius but that can be an overwhelming task to both manage and track your marketing efforts. Instead, try to get to know the decision makers at dance studios, pediatric doctors/dentists, children’s clothing stores, charter or private schools, etc. Those businesses are already in front of your target market. Talk to them about ways you each could benefit from sharing leads with one another. Try to come up with a list of five industries that could help steer leads your way but make sure it’s mutually beneficial.”
–Erica Castner, Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce
A Top Choice for Referral Sharing and Partnering
Being as I worked on this article with, and quoted, the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce, it should only show how vital of a role your local chamber plays in finding those connections. It provides you with numerous opportunities to meet, connect and work with business that are not only good partners for you, but that believe, like you do, in the value of business partnering as described above. “Another benefit of membership with your local Chamber of Commerce is they can usually help you come up with this list and more importantly, help connect you with your list of ideal referral partners” (Erica, same as above).
Since I started in business I have made the local Chamber of Commerce my lifeline to connections and support. If you treat them like any other business partner, you will receive much more than you give. Speaking locally, I have been a member of the Greater Fort Myers Chamber for a good two years now and I have received clients, referrals, partners and even friends through my efforts. I hope you are able to unlock the power of the Chambers in your area and open the door to limitless potential for your business (and, of course, that the door doesn’t not have any “walkers” behind it).