It can sometimes be a wonderful thing for your startup to partner with a bigger organisation. Larger partner organisations can provide access to their customers and markets which can significantly impact on your success  

Here are the benefits: 

  • Access a network of existing customer relationships. Saving you heaps of time and leg work. 
  • Leverage a bigger and more well known brand than yours. They have generally been around for decades. 
  • The relationship may lead to an acquisition of your startup in the future!   

Successful  partnerships need to provide value for both parties. 

Here are a few things that can help your startup be a valuable partner: 

  • Find ways to enhance your partner’s value to their customers. This might involve understanding what they struggle with and helping them to solve it. 
  • Don’t just wait for them to open customer opportunities. Talk to your own network and see if you can open opportunities for them also. The larger partners hardly ever see that happen. It will make your startup stand out from the crowd. 
  • Always bring your “A-Game”. Partners need to be sold to first. Once they are confident you can deliver they will then open the door to their customers. 

Here are some caveats: 

  • Clearly define what you will and will not do as a partner and then stick to it. You need to have the same consistent message to everyone in that organisation.    
  • Don’t let them push you around. If you feel the relationship is not equal then it is better to walk away. In negotiation always understand what your “BATNA” is. 
  • Understand that partnerships take time. Don’t expect them to fully trust you straight away. Many larger partners have been burnt by smaller partners being greedy and not keeping their end of the relationship. 

Remember that partnerships are not based on paper contracts but personal relationships of trust and mutual respect. Anyone can be a partner to a big organisation. To really make it work requires you to make effort in building value and managing those relationships.