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Why It’s Critical For Start Ups To Have The Right Partners

In today’s age of collaboration, finding like-minded businesses to create alliances with can be one of your most valuable tools in helping your company grow. Done right, a strategic partnership can have a tremendous impact on a start-up’s success, from increasing sales and reaching new markets to driving efficiency in operations.  

Before you set out to form a partnership, establish exactly what you’d like to get out of it. Is it to find a different route to market, provide new services or products, expand into other territories, or gain exposure to a new client demographic? Forming relationships with other companies can also help to broaden your own professional network, exposing you to new colleagues, contacts and customers. 

To help you find the right partner to benefit your business, four industry leaders advise the following:

Get access to knowledge and skills

A big benefit of a strategic partnership agreement is the opportunity to learn from other professionals who bring different skills and strengths to the table. You can then use that knowledge and information to better your business.

Quite simply put, a partnership can strengthen your business, says Tshepo Matlou, Head of Marketing and Communications at Jurni, a localised accommodation booking platform that supports tourism start-ups, particularly with their marketing efforts online.

“Having the right partners is critical for any start-up. Skills transfer and mentorship are vital. Small business owners don’t fail because they’re not trying – they fail because of lack of foresight concerning their businesses. They’re so focused on day-to-day operations that they don’t think about things like tax commitments, crisis management, or the importance of long-term disaster recovery plans. That’s where the transference of skills from the right partners is invaluable. Just because a person can bake cakes, it doesn’t mean they are sufficiently equipped to run a successful bakery.”

Operating in isolation and trying to do everything yourself, especially if you don’t have the know-how in a specific area, can cost time and money, says Matlou. Some collaborative relationships can even help to reduce costs, such as if you share development and marketing expenses.

Leapfrog on progress

Alliances that complement your activities can be crucial to business growth, says  Aisha Pandor, CEO of SweepSouth. In today’s age of collaboration, finding like-minded businesses to create alliances with can help your company to leapfrog on progress. 

Since their launch in 2014, SweepSouth have formed many promotional partnerships with companies such as FNB, Vodacom, FlySafair, Netflorist, Takealot, @home and UCook. It’s one of the smart strategies that’s propelled them from being a small tech start-up to taking their leaderboard place as SA’s largest on-demand home services platform, with recent expansion into other parts of Africa.

“Exposure is imperative for your business, but it can be expensive to always promote your product or service on your own,” says Pandor. “Promotional partnerships are fairly simple, giving you access to a wider client pool and leveraging the trust and brand reputation associated with each company to deliver a higher level of perceived value for customers. The best of these partnerships are profitable to both sides, and also enhance business credibility and image.

“When we first partnered with other companies, we sought them out, but we’ve had such tangible results that it’s become a more organic process for us, with companies now seeking us out for strategic alliances,” says Pandor.

Fill crucial skills gaps

Before you set out to find a business to partner with, take stock of your company’s strengths and weaknesses and identify any gaps or functional requirements needed to be a successful, modern enterprise.

SMEs are the backbone of South Africa’s economy, says Andrew Bourne, Regional Manager for Zoho Africa. Yet, many still face a multitude of hurdles, including rough competition, lack of funding and unpredictable market conditions  – all of this within a global pandemic.  One prerequisite for businesses nowadays is digitisation. But without the correct set of tools it might be a scary prospect. Zoho is contributing to this effort through strategic partnerships, such as the one with Entrepreneurs’ Organisation (EO), which aims to support South African businesses in their digital transformation journey by offering easy access to enterprise-grade technology.

“Through this partnership, businesses may receive access to Zoho One, an all-inclusive suite of 45+ web and mobile applications that allows a business to digitise many of its operations at affordable costs. This enables businesses to roll out enterprise-wide digital transformation strategies and take their entire organisation online in a uniform manner, without having to worry about fluctuating exchange rates, data silos, disconnected multi-vendor technology solutions, or infrastructure costs.”

Get a competitive advantage
Great partnerships can help businesses gain a competitive advantage, helping each brand to offer stronger value to their clients. When selecting a company to partner with in this way, think about what makes sense to your business and to your clients, and what complementary service or product would benefit them most, that you aren’t able to offer.

 At Teljoy, SA’s foremost rent-to-own provider, CEO Jonathan Hurvitz says they are constantly engaging with the question of how to add value for their customers. “Value creation is a dynamic, evolving part of our overall strategy. In fact, the success of subscription-based businesses relies heavily on mutually beneficial partnerships with brands and suppliers, where the goal for both parties is great, consistent and relevant value.”

An example of this is the stylish addition of Smeg appliances to Teljoy’s product line-up. “Our kitchen appliance section always does well, but a while ago we noticed a market appetite for smart countertop appliances. We sought out a partnership with Smeg and now can offer show-off kettles and toasters to customers,” says Hurvitz.

And, he adds, value isn’t just one thing, or a box that is checked once and promptly forgotten about. “The challenge with this kind of partnership is to ensure the design of it is such that the experience remains a seamless one for the customer. At the same time, it’s crucial that all the partners involved benefit equally in terms of brand exposure and/or sales.” 

Strategic partnerships are undoubtedly one of the great secrets to levelling up your business, and, if done right, can be built into an alliance that will benefit both companies for years to come.