SMALL BUSINESS MONTH – How Small Businesses Can Leverage Strong Partnerships to Scale and Grow

By Jason Keown, Senior Director of Marketing & eCommerce, Grand & Toy

October marks Small Business Month and it’s a great time to applaud Canada’s fastest growing companies, and the entrepreneurs that founded them. What’s truly commendable is their ability to be lean, agile and creative, adapting to the changing needs of the industry. Grand & Toy was also a small business once, created to be a partner for small businesses and offer the resources required to bring their ideas to life. But there are many different types of partnerships that small businesses can form, to act larger and grow much faster.

Often companies in their early stages have limited resources. Having strategic partners can help a business scale their in- novation, solve challenges and achieve more than if they were at it alone. Businesses who are able to collaborate through a partnership can leverage the strengths and resources of the other, instead of incurring the incremental costs of having that extra service in-house. Below are a few considerations for small businesses when determining if a partnership is worth pursuing.

Understand the opportunities for growth

Whether its providing an additional value to customers, or a new level of expertise, it’s important to understand how a partnership will help a company achieve growth. This is especially true for start-ups and small businesses with limited manpower and available resources. From logistics companies to product suppliers, Grand & Toy works with numerous partners to ensure that it is providing Canadian small businesses with the solutions they need to be productive. Of course, the need for partnerships varies with every industry and business. In the case of start-ups and small businesses, they must first identify the specific challenge that a strategic partnership may be able to solve before making any decisions.

Common challenges start-ups and small businesses face in an increasingly fast-paced world include maintaining financial stability, ensuring active communication with customers and gaining public exposure for their products or business. By partnering with external businesses which specialize in accounting, community management and event management, start-ups and small businesses can outsource work to reduce overhead costs, save time and help them focus on their over- arching business goal.

And as small businesses grow, so do their teams. Partnering with recruitment agencies can be a great way for small businesses to recruit and hire new employees to help manage the increasing workload. It’s also a great way to vet applicants to ensure they’re the right fit for the company’s vision. Make sure it’s mutually beneficial It’s important to ensure that both parties are getting equal value from the partnership. Businesses should weigh the pros and cons to understand what they will give and receive. Once this has been determined, all stipulations should be outlined in writing, to ensure that all parties are aligned on deliverables. It’s also beneficial to include any behavior or decisions that could result in the termi- nation of the partnership. This is import- ant to determine in the outset so that both parties are aware of any important actions to avoid moving forward.

Prepare for a smooth integration

If your partnership involves a shared workspace or combining resources, it’s important to make sure that the transition is as smooth as possible for employees. Consider reaching out to a change management profession- al or project manager to help guide any integration programs to ensure that both businesses can share their thoughts and be heard. Businesses often don’t realize the value in investing in a transition plan. It creates a smoother learning curve and allows teams to get into the swing of things faster.

Build it on trust

It’s important when choosing a partner to consider their business values and their level of service. Often in partnerships, two companies can be collaborating on a project for the same client. If there is a strong level of trust with a partner, you can rest assured that the quality of work will re- main high, as will your strong reputation.

Partnerships take many forms, so it’s best to identify where there’s an opportunity in your business, and how a partner can help fulfill that need. Successful partnerships should always include a shared vision and mission for the work done together, and align on objectives. If you find that a strong partner can help you offer better services to your clientele and grow your offering, then you’ve found a solid opportunity.

So how to begin the journey looking for opportunities? There are many resources to help your small business find the right partnerships. This year, we attended The Globe & Mail’s annual Small Business Summit, and saw firsthand the value in networking and collaboration amongst small business owners. Events such as these are great for building relationships that can lead to partnerships. Many local cities have small business centres with advisors that help guide your business as it grows. Startupcanada.ca is also one of many online organizations dedicated to building partnerships and mentor- ships opportunities.

As Canadian small businesses continue to shape our economy, these partnerships become more important than ever to help business owners innovate and stay competitive. Identifying key opportunities for support is the first step, and leveraging local resources can further help businesses build their communities, to offer more to their customers.