How might one brainstorm and evaluate expanded services that may or may not involve taking on a partner to a greater or lesser extent? One might start by asking the clients. As I’ve mentioned many times before, establishing relationships that make communication comfortable for both parties is so very important.
Speaking with those who are not clients, but who work in or are familiar with your target industries, can also yield some bright ideas. In my January CEO forum, Carole gave me a great tip on how I can expand my strategic plan facilitating services. Carole’s husband works in the NFP sector and has been through more than one strategic planning process that has not delivered the desired results.
Carole clued me in on helpful extras that should increase the likelihood that decisions agreed upon in the planning process will actually be implemented. Demonstrating to clients that I am available to offer follow-up that will keep them on track with their plan could be an excellent selling point. I won’t need a partner, but I will make referrals for required services that are outside of my domain. I will surely incorporate Carole’s suggestions into subsequent client meetings and proposals.
Before introducing a new feature to a client, imagine yourself working in that client’s business. What need does your company fulfill? Envision the big picture and place your services within it, to get a good idea of where your contribution fits. Will additional services allow the client to achieve objectives in a more effective, less expensive, timely or streamlined way?
Although decision makers are timid about spending money these days, a decent percentage will open the checkbook if perceived value is there. Moreover, one stop shopping is in vogue and you may be able to work that to your advantage. Do you have the resources and expertise necessary to deliver those services on your own, or must you link with another Freelancer or small business?
Be careful about the sphere of influence that each partner will have, particularly when those involved have the potential for overlap. No one wants to confuse clients with a power struggle. Be clear about who takes the lead and who makes the decisions in each aspect of the project.
It is also imperative to really know the business practices of a potential partner. I recently had an unfortunate incident when I was invited to be a last minute replacement in an unpaid speaker’s program. This was not a partnership in the classic sense, but a collaborative venture nonetheless.
After the organizer successfully separated me from $200 to help cover program expenses for what was sold to me as a quarterly program featuring the four speakers on board, she proceeded to recruit new speakers for the series, without consulting the original roster. I eventually deduced that the new recruits were not required to pay $200 to join the roadshow, as had the original crew. If that was not enough of a slap, the organizer decided that I would not speak at the second program!
I was not pleased with the bait & switch, to say nothing of the unilateral decision making and I requested that my investment be returned. After some patronizing and stonewalling, the organizer eventually mailed a check for $100.
No, nothing was in writing. I naively thought that a contract was unnecessary for a $200 transaction with someone I thought I knew! Moral of story: protect yourself and leave nothing to chance.
To sum up, collaborations, joint ventures and partnerships can be long term or ad hoc. Specifics of duties, authority and expectations should be in writing (an email may suffice). If a formal partnership (or merger) is formed, obviously the attorneys and accountants get involved. Again, know who you are planning to dance with!
Thanks for reading,