When you are a business owner, particularly a small business owner, leverage is a key part of your success. The more you can leverage your own time, money, knowledge, resources and contacts and those of others, the quicker you can increase your capacity for growth. 

One of the most lucrative strategies in creating leverage in your business is to form strategic partnerships or alliances, with businesses that you share commonality with (normally customers). Forming these relationships can be quite easy – but maintaining them and keeping them profitable? That is not so simple.

To help you get the most out of your strategic partnerships here are five tips for building lasting, profitable, win/win relationships with fellow businesses.

1. Don’t just make it all about referrals

One of the keys to an effective strategic partnership is to make sure you are matched on multiple levels, in knowledge, customers and personality. To do this you need to take more than a transactional or referral approach to your relationship.

Look at other ways you can help and assist each other in business. Is it in sharing your experiences, doing joint promotions or even sharing common expenses? The moment you start seeing someone purely as a dollar sign, the value in the relationship reduces.

2. Stay in touch

The only way to stay at the forefront of someone’s mind is to increase the amount of meaningful touch points you have with them. 

You may like to theme your touch points, having one that is purely to see how they are going and if there is anything you can help them with or any way you can add value to them.  

Another touch point might be to comment or share one of their social media or blog posts. The next one might be give them a referral, a heads up about changes in the industry or even an interesting article you know would be of interest. This way each time you connect you are adding value.

3. Take an interest

Be genuinely interested in the person you are trying to build a relationship with. Find out what they are looking for and need within their business, who they want to connect with in terms of customers and other influencers and also get to know them on a personal level, what are their priorities and interests? 

All of this information will allow you to build rapport, establish common ground and find ways you can become valuable to them, whether it is through generating new business, value adding to their customers, providing information, products or services or a mix.

4. Do favours

Be generous with your time and knowledge. That’s not to say you have to give everything away for free, but be willing to go the extra mile with those you want to establish a truly lasting and profitable relationship with.

Become their sounding board, the trusted colleague they can come to with a challenge they need help with or an idea they need qualified. It can get lonely in business and sometimes you just need an outside perspective. If you can be that for someone else, and reward them with confidentiality, loyalty and sound advice, you will strengthen your business relationship to no end.

5. Ask for input

Don’t be afraid to ask for favours either. A good relationship is one that is a balance of give and take. The newer the relationship the smaller the favour, and as a good rule of thumb try to make sure they balance out. You don’t want to be the one who is always asking or the one who is always giving, so make sure the relationship is win/win for all involved.

What changes can you make to build more lasting, profitable strategic partnerships?