Thriving Online Partnerships: Guide to Business Collaborations
As an online business owner in the coaching, digital courses, and memberships industry, collaboration with others can complement your success. By joining forces, you can share the workload, tap into new markets, and maximize your revenue. However, before you start sharing those landing pages or selling tickets - YOU MUST SLOW DOWN and address potential issues like unequal work distribution, client stealing, and intellectual property theft - just to mention a few.
I’ll share with you steps you can use to approach establishing your own successful business collaborations, along with tools and resources to help you manage your partnerships effectively.
Step 1: Identifying Potential Partners
The first step in building a successful collaboration is to find potential partners that complement your business. What areas would complement your business? Take a moment and make a list of the areas of your own business and then opposite brainstorm out areas that would complement your own areas. Once you have a list of complements, then you can look for professionals who share your vision and values, have a strong reputation in their industry, and possess skills or resources that your business lacks.
Finding complementary individuals might be a friend-to-friend introduction, maybe a local sports league, attending events, participating in groups/forums/etc. You can also ask for referrals from existing contacts in your network.
This topic is dear to my heart because I endured my own business collaboration go from business marital bliss into a heartbreaking business divorce. I’ll do my part every time to share exactly what I didn’t do the first time through so you have the chance to avoid the messy mistakes I made.
For myself, my collaborations (good and not-so-good) came from direct network connections and referrals.
Step 2: Defining the Collaboration's Scope and Objectives
Before entering a partnership, it's essential to have a clear understanding of each party's role and the collaboration's goals. Discuss the specific tasks each partner will be responsible for, how the workload will be divided, and the expected outcomes. Having a shared vision and clearly defined objectives will help ensure the partnership remains focused and successful.
Defining means specificity. You MUST DEFINE roles and goals, tasks, etc. Words matter and if you don’t take the time to put your specifics down on paper, you are opening yourself up to all kinds of misunderstandings.
I learned first hand how crucial defining is when collaborating with my business-partner-gone-bad … simple definitions in terms of what is a “quick reply to an email” - for me, as a mother of a sick 18-month old “quick” was anything within 3 days. For my business-partner-gone-bad - “quick” was within 3 hours. As a consulting attorney to hundreds of collaborations every single piece of my work always starts with defining your words. The BIZLEBOX™ Biz Pre-Nup Box immediately brings your focus to this issue by guiding you through ALL the questions I should have known to ask myself and my business-partner-gone-bad and didn’t.
Concrete examples help me quickly compare and contrast. Here’s a concrete example from Biz Pre-nup Box to give you an idea in black and white why specifics in your definitions matter.
Example from the Biz Pre-Nup Box
Example of the Define Your Words section of Biz Pre-Nup Box
Step 3: Establishing a Legal Framework
To protect your interests and minimize potential conflicts, draft a legally binding partnership agreement. You want to have a legally binding agreement even if you are simply hosting a free thing. Not having one means you are gambling with your legal and financial freedoms.
Now I know that may feel like we just turned down the serious road and we did but that doesn’t mean that having a legally binding agreement needs to be scary or overwhelming. This legally binding agreement or document simply outlines each party's roles, responsibilities, and ownership rights. It also addresses potential issues, such as intellectual property rights, client confidentiality, and dispute resolution procedures. You can consult with an attorney to ensure that the agreement covers all necessary legal aspects and you can also use resources like BIZLEBOX™ Biz Pre-Nup Box that contains various agreement templates with the guidance for you to customize for your needs while also having the opportunities to ask questions as you have them.
Step 4: Setting Up Communication Channels
Effective communication is crucial for any relationship that is important to us. With so many ways to communicate, it is essential to establish what ways of communication you are going to use. If one person loves writing long emails and the other hates emails and would rather just send a text - you are going to be inevitably upset with each other and might not even know that a simple discussion about what your communication channels were going to be would’ve made a difference.
Solid questions to ask both yourself and your potential partners are:
- If you have exciting news to share with me, how would you do that?
- If you had disappointing news to share with me, how would you do that?
- If you send an email, what do you expect in return - an email back, a phone call, a text, a text with an emoji?
- How often do you expect to stay in communication with me?
- If you hadn’t heard from me in a week, what would you do? 2 weeks? 2 hours? … etc.
If these seem like almost silly questions to be thinking about - they’re not. Each one highlights one of your basic core communication preferences, even if you haven’t labeled it as such before. Establish clear channels that work for both (or all) of you for regular communication, such as meetings, emails, or just touching base. This will help you stay informed, address concerns promptly, and maintain a strong working relationship.
Step 5: Monitoring and Evaluating Progress
With any project and definitely a group project, you need mile-marker check-in points to regularly assess progress to ensure that you are still on the path you set out on together or as a group.
Take the time at the onset of your collaboration or partnership to set up key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the collaboration's success and track each partner's contributions. This will enable you to identify and address any issues with workload distribution or performance before they escalate. Five common KPIs include:
Conversion Rate, quantifying the percentage of visitors completing a desired action, like making a purchase;
Bounce Rate, measuring user engagement by calculating the percentage of single-page visits;
Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC), tracking the average expense of acquiring new customers;
Average Order Value (AOV), gauging the average revenue per transaction; and
Customer Lifetime Value (CLV), predicting the net profit from the entire relationship with a customer.
Having specific defined KPIs is essential just like Step 2 from above.
Step 6: Implementing Tools and Resources
I’m a vocal advocate on using technology as an integral part of your team and always look to hire the best tools for my own team. As you are working together, it is essential to have tools that complement the collaboration. Now the level of input on tools obviously depends on the level of involvement in the collaboration. A guest speaker at a virtual summit would not have input into the tools on your business team compared to two individuals running a virtual summit together as a collaboration where both people would be using the same tools regularly.
Several tools and resources can help you manage your partnerships and collaborations more effectively:
1. Project Management Software
Tools like Notion, Asana, Trello, or Basecamp can help you assign tasks, track progress, and collaborate more efficiently.
2. Communication Platforms
Slack or Microsoft Teams can facilitate real-time communication and provide a centralized space for sharing documents and updates.
3. Shared Calendar
Google Calendar or Microsoft Outlook can help you schedule meetings, set deadlines, and stay organized. Another specific step you can take from Step 2 above is adding available and blocked-out times to the calendar so that it is easy for all those involved in the collaboration/partnership to easily see what times are good and off-limits without the need for additional back-and-forth communications.
4. Legal and Contract Management
Repeat after me - contracts are my best friend in business.
The best contracts are NEVER put into use because all the expectations and negotiations happened before the relationship or project really took off. You will use contracts in every area of your business because each business decision creates a legal consequence - plain and simple. It’s why BIZLEBOX™ exists to serve entrepreneurs, like you, with reliable easy-to-use business and legal tools, like contracts, to help you protect your most important assets: time, money, and resources.
We all go into collaborations with a spring in our step and a smile on our face - similar to a wedding we believe the best is yet to come.
But we’ve all seen separation and divorce rates - business collaborations are no exceptions. Take the time to follow these steps and give yourselves time to ask the silly and the tough questions.
Establishing successful business collaborations, joint ventures, and partnerships in the online coaching, digital courses, and memberships industry can lead to increased revenue, shared workload, and access to new markets.
BIZLEBOX™ Biz Pre-Nup Box is my gift to you - the resource I created in the midst of the turmoil of my own business partnership going down the drain - but I’m thankful each time my experience and knowledge is able to strengthen others’ partnerships or help find viable alternatives if you decide not to move forward with the original idea for your collaboration.