Strategic AlliancesJeannine Bennett
Strategic Alliances: We Can Make a Greater Difference Together!
There are several things I enjoy about this time of year and the cold is not one of them, but it does remind me of home. I grew up in both Wisconsin and upper Michigan so cold is no stranger but living in Virginia Beach, Virginia for the past 30 years has made it a distant memory, that is, until November. In the late fall, those memories of home come flooding back as soon as I experience the chill in the air and witness the beauty of the changing leaves. I love the cold if I am INSIDE. I get joked by my daughters that wearing fuzzy socks, a sweater over a long sleeve shirt and thermal lined leggings under my pants is probably overkill, but I don’t listen because I remember what it is like to be cold and I don’t chance it. Admittedly, I love the razzing and most of all, I love the holidays where I get to spend time with my loved ones laughing and joking with each other.
With the Thanksgiving holiday quickly approaching, I am reminded of the many things for which I am grateful. The list is long and the feeling of being blessed runs deep. This year I have even more blessings to count. From a personal perspective, I welcomed another granddaughter into the family bringing the total to five beautiful grandchildren I get to cherish for the rest of my life. I feel overwhelmed with joy at the thought of the family legacy being built.
From a professional perspective, I took a huge leap of faith leaving a long-time government job in which I was doing quite well. I gained favor with leadership, made a difference for those I served and felt valued. Despite my successes, something was missing. I was not fulfilling my calling or realizing a dream I had been holding onto for years. In 2013 I launched a business called Vision to Purpose. The company was and is still dedicated to helping individuals and businesses succeed through the offering of tailored career, life and business solutions. Unfortunately, in 2013, I did not truly launch the business. I continued to receive referral business but did not actively pursue new business. Well, this year I knew I needed to do something different if I ever wanted to realize my dream, so I quit my job and haven’t looked back since. Okay, I wish that were true. If I am being completely honest, I might have looked back a couple of times. I might have even asked myself, what on earth did you do, no one leaves a government job. Fortunately, the fleeting moments of doubt were cancelled out by the strong support system I had in place to keep me grounded as I moved forward on this grand endeavor.
The first month of operating the business full-time was met with a long list of phenomenal clients. Clients from all over the country with very different backgrounds. The joy I felt and continue to feel knowing that I am helping my clients reach their goals is priceless and tells me every day that I did the right thing.
When I launched Vision to Purpose I initially tried to take on every task. In fact, there were many aspects that I enjoyed doing since I had the autonomy to be as a creative as I wanted. Unfortunately, I soon realized the time being spent trying to learn new things was also starting to compromise areas where I did excel. It became apparent I needed to do something different and that was to reach out to others for help. I scrolled through my electronic rolodex seeking out those professional colleagues who happen to be friends to see how we could help each other succeed. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that every person I contacted was eager to build an alliance. In working together, we could make a bigger difference for our clients, much greater than if we continued to work alone. What an amazing feeling!
I went from being a self-employed entrepreneur forging ahead alone to having a team of talented professionals to reach out to when I needed additional services, guidance and even support. I realize this is not an earth shattering revelation but when you are a newly minted entrepreneur you get an overwhelming sense of gratitude when you find so many others who want to be in your corner helping you succeed along the way. Talk about an incredible blessing!
In just a short time, I have managed to build many alliances and I could go on for pages talking about all the great connections; however, I will share those at the end. Now, I want YOU to think about your own strategic alliances. If you have some that is GREAT, please share with us by commenting at the end of the article about how you formed them. If you have not built any strategic alliances yet, let’s look at what should you consider when seeking out a professional connection? Below is a list of things I considered as I sought out strategic alliances with other professionals.
THINGS TO CONSIDER:
1.) Reputation: In picking other individuals and businesses to connect with you must be sure they embrace your core values. When possible try to align yourself with people you had a positive working relationship previously. The obvious benefit here is you have a good idea of what you can expect from them in terms of services, quality, timeliness and cost. If this isn’t an option, seek out solid references from those you trust.
Be diligent when researching outside sources and make certain they are a good match for you and your clients. As you research keep the following questions front and center: Are they of good character and do they have integrity? Are they trustworthy and have they built a good reputation? Having a solid professional reputation is a must.
As a small business you are cultivating relationships with clients you already have but are also seeking new clients. You want to make sure you always produce high quality work so that your clients will be happy and refer you to others. If you build connections that do not have your same values, and have not built a strong, credible reputation, then you risk a day when one of your clients may not be treated the way you would treat them. Remember, customers tend to share negative comments more quickly than they do positive comments, so be cautious with those you connect with because you don’t want to damage your reputation in the process. For a small business the risk could be too great so be sure to do your homework and align with the right people.
2.) Needs: You must know your specific needs up front, so you can articulate them to a potential strategic partner. If you are unable to clearly identify your objectives for a connection then a person who is a good fit may not recognize it and thus, decline your offer to connect.
3.) Expectations: Will this be a one-time connection, or is there potential for a lasting relationship? You will need to determine that before you move forward because you do not want to send mixed signals to a potential business partner. You must set expectations up front.
The alliances I have built to date are considered long-term partnerships since many of my clients require expertise that is outside of my current skill set and service offerings. Therefore, as I sought out individuals to form alliances with I knew I would have to rely on their expertise to help me provide an overall solution for my clients.
In return for sending my connections additional business I receive benefits too. In some cases, it could be reduced service rates, quick turnarounds and even referrals for my business as well. Again, it’s a relationship because we are helping each other make a greater difference for the individuals and organizations that need our help.
4.) Referrals: Aside from picking up new clients from referrals given by your strategic connections, there is virtually no cost to your company. You just build strong relationships with your connections to make it work. In my case, it saved me a lot of money on lead generation services that I can now spend on growing my business. I’m at a loss to find any situation where a company doesn’t want to take on new work that didn’t require time and money to secure.
5.) Benefits: There is another benefit many people miss when strategic alliances are not formed. You may not have business supporters, mentors and others willing to challenge you. With my strategic connections, I get all the above. In fact, I have been fortunate to receive some clients from my partners that pushed the limits of my capabilities forcing me to work in areas in which I was unfamiliar. My strategic partners chose to give me those clients to stretch me because they knew me well enough to know I was capable. Admittedly, I relished the challenge, and will confess it was a bit overwhelming upfront. I wasn’t sure I had the time to truly devote to learning the intricacies of the new assignment. I was nervous, and I lost sleep. I may have even felt a little sick at one point from stressing more than I should have because I wanted to excel not for me but for the people counting on me. Thankfully, the end-product was delivered on time, without issue and by all accounts a success. As a result, I made the client happy, gained a new sense of accomplishment, learned a new skill, and felt extremely grateful for the opportunity given to me by my connection.
Since every encounter and situation is unique, I realize this list is nowhere near complete; however, what can be gleaned is that forming strategic alliances can help both parties propel their businesses forward ultimately making a greater difference for their clients that goes beyond just simply offering more services. Forming strategic alliances are both beneficial and rewarding for you and your customers. I highly encourage you to seek out connections today.
Here is a list of some of the professionals I have partnered with recently. Please check out their work. You never know, they could be a good fit for you too!
WEB DESIGN/GRAPHIC DESIGN:
Crystal Calhoun, Made to Be Unique
Crystal created my Web site as well as several other products for me. She is an expert with web design, SEO, graphic design, strategic marketing, email/newsletter campaigns and ongoing website maintenance, plus a whole lot more!
Most recently, Crystal and I have been working together on updating LinkedIn profiles for my clients. She creates tailored LinkedIn profile backgrounds and I update the language to align to their resumes and job objectives. It has worked out wonderfully. Crystal is a talented powerhouse when it comes to her design expertise. There is nothing she can’t do. You can check out all the services Crystal provides by going here: www.madetobeunique.com.
Mark Lambertson, Prodigious Motion
Prodigious Motion (“ProMo”) is an integrated marketing communication studio. Mark and his team are experts with web design, SEO, graphic design, logos, corporate identity and a plethora of other services. I have known Mark since 2005 when we worked together at Regent University. I always called on Mark when I needed a marketing piece that would WOW because I knew if anyone could impress, he could and he did every time!
Mark designed my logo, created my business cards, stationary package, and most recently my book cover. Check out his full line of services by going here: http://www.prodigiousmotion.com/.
PROFESSIONAL BEAUTY SERVICE
Louise Edwards, Mary Kay
Louise is the brown-haired beauty in the main picture above. We had fun Rocking the Mary Kay Runway event together. During the occasion I had the opportunity to network with several women in Louise’s district, get professional pictures taken by an amazing photographer as well as have some fun posing for the silly shots you see above. It was a great time.
Louise has been my Mary Kay lady for over a year now and my friend for several years. You may be wondering, why on earth do I need a Mary Kay consultant as a strategic alliance? Great question! As a career coach, there are times when I may be called to do an event that covers various job-related topics for women. For instance, interviewing preps. One thing outside of professional attire that I like to discuss when helping women prepare for interviews is make up. Women can absolutely wear make-up, but when preparing for an interview the make-up should be more natural not bold. The goal is to make you and your skills shine not your eye shadow. We want the interviewer listening to you not distracted by your bold make-up and jewelry choices. Disclaimer: depending on the job and the industry there may be times where you want to go big and bold. Again, Louise is the expert and can tell if you if it is appropriate. She has her hand on the pulse of beauty tips and tricks and has built a great network of other consultants all over the country she can tap into when necessary.
You can check out Louise’s Mary Kay site by going here: https://www.marykay.com/ledwards65375
Cathy Bowers, Nutrition for a Lifetime
I have known Cathy for years. She is both a friend and a sister at church. She is also one of my greatest supporters. In fact, the encouragement from Cathy never stops. I love her positive energy. I asked Cathy if she would be interested in helping any clients I had with health needs and with a resounding, yes, she was all in.
Why would I need to employ the services of a health expert? As a life coach there are times when I must work with clients who are dealing with struggles at work. Those struggles are causing stress and stress is impacting their life. Since Cathy focuses on the whole person and is concerned with their overall well-being, she is quick to educate clients on various foods and exercises that help relieve stress, eliminate pain, reduce inflammation and the list goes on. What I like about Cathy’s approach is it is based on eating the right foods vice taking supplements to resolve the issues. She has helped many individuals along the way and I look forward to referring my clients to her to help them as well.
To learn more about Cathy and her services, go here: http://nutritionforalifetime.biz/.