Strategic Partners
Look for experts around you to grow your business acumen, says Mark Richardson, and you’ll grow your business, too.
Mark Richardson

About 80 percent of your success in business today and in the future will come from your business acumen, not your product or service knowledge. Many of you have grown up in the business or have otherwise inherited electricity in your blood. But by focusing more on business acumen, you not only will become more successful, you will also be able to do more of what you love.

A key area of business that many fail to develop is strategic relationships. Strategic relationships are about becoming bigger without expanding your base. Strategic relationships are about synergistic ideas. Strategic relationships are
a mindset.

If you can begin to think about the power of this notion, you will see many benefits. Some good examples are right in front of you. Take your accountant. Begin looking at your accountant as a financial adviser or a teacher, not just someone providing balance sheets. Instead of meeting to discuss reports, have lunch with your accountant and ask him or her to teach you about some of the key metrics for guiding your business and ways to increase the net margins. You might also brainstorm ideas for new clients that he or she has access to. My point is: Your accountant is not just an expense; he or she can become an investment in your future.

Another example is your vendors. Many can help you grow your business in other ways besides just providing products or services. They are experts in delivery systems that are very relevant and transferable to your world. They know how to sell their products and can assist you on a sales call. They may have access to marketing dollars that, if leveraged, can benefit your business.

In this era of rapidly changing energy-efficient lighting, tapping the experts who surround you becomes even more critical to serving your customers effectively. But it doesn't end with knowing new technology and its application. These products contribute to a larger economic and sustainability picture with global significance.

Forming a strategic relationship begins by seeing your partners through a new lens and approaching them with a mindset to glean the benefits. If you want to grow your business and believe deputizing others to help is a good strategy, keep these tips in mind:

1)  Eliminate the word “vendor” from your team’s vocabulary  and replace it with “strategic alliance.” When you call someone a strategic partner, you look at that person differently. You both look for win-win solutions and ideas.

2) Find the mavens. The mavens are the strategic alliances that are worth 10 times the others. They provide more ideas, contacts, and insights that really help your business. Once you find them, you need to invest more time and energy into them.

3) If you give, you get. Developing these relationships is not a one-way street. Try positioning yourself differently. You may give them some referrals or do a little talk to their team on a subject you are passionate about. Giving not only cements the relationship with them, it also makes you better and more masterful.

For some, this way of thinking is obvious and second nature. Others get the concept, but it takes effort to shift your thinking. A few will never get it. If you really want to grow your business, a great place to start is by leveraging those around you to help.

About this author

Mark Richardson
Mark Richardson is Co-chairman of Case Design Remodeling and the Case Institute of Remodeling. He is a member of the NAHB Remodeling Hall of Fame and a Fellow at Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies.

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