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Small Business Advice: The Secret to a Successful Business Partnership

There is no lack of famous partnerships from businesses that came together to fail as a partnership. What went wrong? Why didn’t they make the most of one another’s strengths? Did they get greedy? Or perhaps complacent? Or maybe they had differing and incompatible business models? All these questions run one’s mind once you come across examples of the likes of NASA and Lockheed Martin failing to make their partnership work – a partnership worth over $125 million.

The simple secret to a successful partnership lies in ensuring compatibility and setting aside selfishness to work together as one unit. That’s what NASA and Lockheed Martin failed to achieve, that’s why the partnership crumbled.

Now setting aside selfishness doesn’t meant setting aside self-interest. There is a huge difference. Nobody is asking you to be a cash-cow for your partner and live to serve their interest and their interest only. That’s not what is being suggested here. What comes in between selfishness and self-interest is mutual ground, and it is this mutual ground that is arguably the most important ingredient for successful partnerships. When this mutual ground is achieved, partners serve one another and by doing so, serves oneself. This leads to a situation where the partners complement each other’s products, services, and brand images and the resulting situation is a win-win.

The perfect example to illustrate this idea of how mutual ground leads to successful partnerships can be seen in Coca-Cola’s acquisition of Honest Tea. Honest Tea is a company that built its entire business on offering a much more organic and healthier route to the usual tea that we find in the supermarkets. Its brand image was its most powerful asset and the potential for growth was massive. Coca-Cola on the other hand was a market leader in the beverages industry and had some of the most sophisticated distribution networks and sources of funding in the world.

When they came together, Honest Tea ended up selling over a billion bottles, while Coca-Cola gained a reputation as a sustainable brand. How? Because they found mutual ground, whereby Coca-Cola didn’t streamline Honest Tea’s operations for cost-cutting purposes. Doing so would taint the very reputation the company was built upon. If Coca-Cola had been greedy and had targeted self-interest of cutting costs, the partnership would have ended before it even began.

Instead, what Coca-Cola did was respect the fact that Honest Tea had its own way of operating, and allowed it to operate as an autonomous partner. Honest Tea, as a result, retained its reputation and gained access to Coca-Cola’s expansive distribution network and funding, something that helped it grow immensely.

In contrast, there are various example of partnerships that started out with either ambiguous goals, little synergy, or with one partner dominating the partnership excessively. This is not mutual ground, and without this, partnerships hardly ever thrive.

If you have a small business like what Honest Tea once was, and have high ambitions, a larger, more financially robust partner that understands your business might just be what you need at this moment. However, you must not get greedy and speed up the process unnecessarily. Take your time, look properly, and make sure you find a partner who can work with you in finding that much-needed mutual ground.

In the meanwhile, if you are troubled by the need for financing, perhaps you should consider getting a cash advance. It is surprisingly easy, as the likes of First American Merchant have now introduced specialized cash advances designed for the needs of small, ambitious businesses. One application is all that stands in your way.