Big or small? Choosing the right business partner

Many small and medium-sized businesses are happy to develop partnerships with smaller not-for-profit groups. A local partnership could lead to a more successful or more engaged arrangement.

Why you should look beyond partnerships with big business

It may seem logical to approach big business with a partnership proposal – after all, large state, national or multi-national firms should have plenty of money, staff and resources – but limiting yourself by seeking partnerships with big companies can be a recipe for disappointment and frustration.

It’s not that these companies aren’t willing to help. Many large firms have an impressive track record of giving, supporting and partnering not-for-profit groups. But bigger companies tend to prefer heftier partnerships with bigger not-for-profits.

The bigger the business, the bigger their goals and the more likely they are to share a state, national or international focus with a larger not-for profit.

OUR TIP: Pick on someone your own size. Big businesses are not the only corporate bodies willing to form partnerships.

The advantages of partnering with a small or medium-sized business

Many small and medium-sized businesses are happy to develop a community-business partnership with a smaller not-for-profit group.

Have a look around your local area. Many businesses publicise their partnerships through certificates or letters of appreciation inside their premises, while some proudly advertise their support of community–business partnerships on the outside of their building.

These are the sorts of firms you should be approaching when looking for a business partner, and there are a number of reasons why.

Here are some benefits of looking locally:

More choice

There are more small and medium-sized businesses around than larger firms. More options mean a better chance of finding a suitable partner.

More flexibility

Working with a local community partner means more flexibility – there are more partnership models to choose from when developing a partnership, and more of a chance one of them will be the best fit for you and your partner.

Easier to approach

Approaching a small or medium-sized business for partnership may be less daunting than approaching a big company – particularly if it’s your first time. If they’re a local business, they may already be familiar with you, your staff and your organisation. It will also be easier to access them on an ongoing basis.

Closer relationship

A partnership with a small or medium-sized business can result in a closer or more hands-on relationship, with clearer lines of communication between smaller groups and businesses and less likelihood of unnecessary red tape causing problems. Smaller businesses are also likely to understand your limitations, strengths and weaknesses better than a larger business.

Better match

Smaller businesses can’t offer unlimited resources to a partnership with a bigger, state or national not-for-profit. They may be better placed to support a smaller organisation.

More success

A local partnership may be a more fruitful and successful partnership, with both parties having a common interest in seeing benefits for their local community.

Positive publicity

Stories in the local media and positive word-of-mouth talk around the community can be generated through a local partnership.

More grants

A locally based partnership may more easily attract grants or support from bodies like the local council – who are keen to help a good local project – or from state government grant programs targeting community projects.

Inspiration for others

A healthy partnership could inspire other groups in your town to join in or develop their own partnership.

OUR TIP: Look local. Choosing a partner in your local area can multiply the benefits to both partners and the wider community.

Even so, not-for-profits shouldn’t abandon the idea of developing a successful partnership with a big business. Just don’t be limited to such partnerships.

A good option is to approach the area manager or local representative of a larger firm, such as the manager of your local bank branch. That person is far more likely than someone from head office to be aware of the relative merits of your organisation.

OUR TIP: Your group should cast its net as wide as possible – and across businesses of all sizes – to find a prospective business partner that is ideal for you.

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