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Stefan Kazakis on 16 September 2015

Better manage your business relationships.

Think about who interacts with your business. How many groups can you identify? When you include both internal and external relationships your list will end up quite long: staff, managers, suppliers, customers and even your accountant and bank manager. With so many business relationships, how can you manage and build them all?

Consider all these relationships as 'business partnerships'; these stakeholders all enter into a kind of agreement when then interact with your business. For example, it could be your staff in exchange for a wage, or your customer’s money in exchange for your product.

The next step is to define these business relationships into either 'official' or 'unofficial' business partnerships—this is important, as the techniques to manage each kind will slightly differ. Once you know how to manage each of your partnerships, you’ll be able to reduce conflict, increase productivity and grow your business.

To join in the discussion about small business strategy and management, register for our monthly business event, M500.

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Official Business Partnerships

Official business partnerships are easy to identify. These are the traditionally defined business partnerships, such as co-founders or a joint business venture. Managing these partnerships is important; conflicting roles, completing personalities or misaligned goals are all ways that your business partnerships can start splitting at the seams. Regardless of the type and number of partnerships, there can only be one CEO in your business.

As business coaches, BBG have helped develop and nurture countless partnerships—from husband and wife teams to a group of mates in newly minted start-ups. Here are some of the ways we have discovered to manage and build your official business partnerships:

Divide responsibilities

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Take a look at who is doing what across all your business functions; from accounts, marketing, sales and training. Who are the key people and personalities in charge? Are there any overlapping roles? Where does the buck stop and with who?

It is important the your internal partnerships have defined roles and responsibilities. Not only does this reduce inefficiency in your business operations, it can also reduce ambiguity in accountability as well as the potentially damaging effects of clashing personalities.

But remember to divide responsibilities evenly and equally. Everyone should be doing their fair share, even if not all of the tasks are particularly pleasant!

Maximise an individual's strengths

On dividing responsibilities, it is also important that partners are working to their strengths. For example, if you’re in partnership with a night owl, but you’re an early bird, don’t expect your habits to change—and don’t try to change your partner either! If these are the conditions that optimise your personal productivity, then find ways to embrace it

How? It is really up to you and your business. Try to find identify the tasks you and your partnerships excel at and find a way to maximise everyone’s unique skill sets.

A business advisor can be an invaluable insight into looking into your business and helping you identify ways to structure your people and partnerships.

Reduce points of conflict

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This tip comes with a caveat: there is no way to completely eliminate conflict in business! You should always expect it to come up from time to time, especially between partners and partnerships. But there are always lessons to be learnt from conflict, and ways to manage it.

One way is developing a conflict resolution policy. This document outlines the steps to take when you’re confronted with a high-level disagreement between partners.

However, it is also important that this policy changes as your business changes—it should be reviewed every six months, or at least every time there is a major change in your business, such as a new official partnership.

Unofficial Business Partnerships

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On the other side of the coin, we have unofficial business partnerships. These, of course, are stakeholders to your business which may not be strictly defined as a ‘business partnership’, but there is still an agreement between you, them and your business.

Think about the relationships you have with your accountant, your bank manager, your business coach, your suppliers, your clients and your team.

These relationships are important to your business, but they should be managed in different ways to your official business partnerships.

Communicate regularly

Open and honest communication with everything that you do will ensure that your relationships will be built on solid foundations. Making sure that there is alignment and clarity will ensure that the outcomes of the partnership are realised. Express and receive feedback graciously.

A business coach will help you develop strategies to nurture your existing partnerships and find ways to identify and develop new ones.

Recognise every contribution.

Every partnership is valuable, that’s why it’s a partnership. But it’s all too easy to take some of our partnerships for granted—which means that these relationships will not grow and strengthen your overall business. Respect the contribution of every individual and work together to identify and achieve a common purpose or objective.

Invest in development.

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Actively promote the well-being and development of all partnerships in your business. This investment is mutually beneficial for all involved—it’s a “you win, I will’ principle. Naturally, how you do this is up to your business and the nature of the relationship. Explore all kinds of avenues for development—team building, coaching, education, networking events, leadership opportunities—and figure out the costs, risks and rewards of each.

How Business Coaching Can Help Create New partnerships

A business coach is not just another business partnership you need to manage. A business coach will help you develop strategies to nurture your existing partnerships and find ways to identify and develop new ones. A business coach will find ways to build and grow your business—and people and partnerships are an essential part of that growth.

Another avenue for sourcing valuable business partnerships is networking. Business networking and coaching events, such as Business Benchmark Group’s M500, are an opportunity for you to be inspired-by and connect-with other Melbourne businesses, as well as gain new business skills.

Business Benchmark Group are business specialists and small business coaches who have worked with countless Melbourne companies and helped them find the path to growth. Call 03 9001 0878 to discuss your business’ future.

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