You don’t build a big business on your own. As it grows bigger and faster, you need different kinds of partnerships to help you. Good business partners are crazy difficult to find, which is why these partnerships are of strategic importance.
Jan Badenhorst has been working in the private distance learning industry since 1992, and has recently launched their third and fourth colleges, Matric College and Bellview Institute of Distance Learning. He shares some advice on how strategic partnerships have helped him survive, overcome obstacles and achieve success.
Going from zero to hero to zero…and up again
“In my career, I have been lucky enough to team up with many great people, and it has taught me that you can often find the right partners by looking inside your business – its inner circle. A vital aspect of a strategic partnership is partnering with people that are committed and willing to go through extreme challenges with you. This includes fellow shareholders and the key members of your team. The better the teams’ dynamic is, the higher their mutual trust and respect will be, resulting in a stronger team.
Once you have the right people, treat them properly. Properly means different things to different people. Sometimes it means money, but almost always it means respect and a commitment to working things out. Because yes, stuff will go wrong!
Maybe the most important lesson I learnt from a great business partner, is that it is ok to walk away from an argument, cool down, and try again the next day. With real mutual respect and trust, I know that we will keep trying until it works.
The value of a business coach
Find a business coach who can help you and your inner circle stay focused while working through the difficult hurdles and tough problems you will face on the road to success. Entrepreneurs are easily distracted! This is where a business coach can help you and your business partners lay tracks for your business to follow. He or she can help you stick to them and realign if you fall off the path.
Partnerships with suppliers – lots of love and patience!
Suppliers are often closely linked to the fortunes of our business. If we do badly and struggle to pay them, it can have a very painful knock-on effect on the company of a supplier. Building trust and gaining the support of key suppliers can be the difference between making it through the storm and sinking the ship. Which is why nurturing supplier relationships through honesty and respect is vital. It is very special when a supplier gives you a three or even six month payment holiday, to allow you to get back on track!
The long-term commitment to suppliers, combined with brutal honesty regarding your business’s problems, will help in establishing robust supplier partnerships.
In a startup, you will inevitably run out of money. It’s especially tricky when you are under pressure and need the money fast. It can also be quite expensive, as you don’t have a track record of cash flow, so people see lending you money as a significant risk. Whether you are borrowing money from friends, family or financiers, communication, proper accounting, and brutal honesty is key.
Recently, however, we’re seeing the rise of lenders who are willing to take the risks that the banks are too scared to take. One example is when you “sell” the future income of your business at a discount (factoring). Of course, it comes at a hefty price, but often, the risk can save your business.
Regulations and your industry
The regulatory environment in education and many in industries changes all the time. So you need to ensure that your business is adhering to all relevant regulations and staying ahead of any regulatory changes, which is a constant but necessary task.
Building relations with people inside your industry is incredibly important, and part of this is sharing your expertise and advice with others. In business, so many people are afraid to share their knowledge and expertise. There is a false idea that companies can have some secret strategic advantage. In reality, the people who freely share their expertise, knowledge and experience often get more value than they give.
External Business Advisors and experts
The longer you do the same thing, the bigger the problem, you can’t see the woods for the trees. Outside experts challenge your most precious ideas and can help you regain perspective and focus on what’s essential in your business!
Having sound accounting systems and great accountants is fundamental to your business’s success. Great accounts can look at your business with a cold, uninvolved eye – and give you good, straight advice. The same is true of your business lawyer. Having an expert who understands the challenges of a business, and the business stage it’s in is vital.
Also, as a trained journalist and having worked in marketing for most of my life, I have experienced first-hand the incredible benefit of external PR and Marketing Advisors. An outside eye and a different perspective can go a long way.
Nuturing strategic partnerships
Establish trust and loyalty; commit to working out the inevitable tough problems. Share your knowledge and expertise freely and honestly. The more you give, the more you get. Having integrity and behaving in a way that inspires trust and loyalty will attract people who embody these values. Moreover, those are the foundations of great long-term strategic partnerships.”
Jan Badenhorst is a serial education entrepreneur who has started many educational companies.