by Bill Anand, CEO and owner, Vacuums Unlimited – Chantilly, Va.
By nature, entrepreneurs and small business owners are do-it-yourself kinds of people. We take big ideas and run with them. Success (or failure) rests on our shoulders alone. But the fact is, we can’t do it alone. And one proven way to manage the issues and roadblocks every new or growing small business will face is to align your business with a strong group of strategic partners.
A Do-It-Yourselfer needing partners? Yes, that’s right. Strategic partners are far different from a list of vendors that do a job and get paid; strategic partners are committed to the growth and prosperity of your business. They want to see you succeed.
By recognizing the importance of strategic partners, and with planning, you can develop your list of “must have” strategic partners to help build your business’s reputation and value with your customers.
Here are five strategic partnerships to consider as your business grows. They will allow your business to compete in an economically difficult marketplace, make your business look bigger than it actually is and let you spend time on things that really matter – like building your bottom line.
Payroll Services – There are two schools of thought. If your finance responsibilities are manageable, you can use software like Quick Books that will guide you through the payroll process. However, outsourcing payroll services can take bookkeeping responsibilities off of your to-do list. And most importantly, they’ll help you avoid penalties. Professional payroll specialists apply the correct amount of federal, state and city payroll taxes and assure that the company will not be hit with inaccuracy fines, which can be high. Some services include an online portal so you can easily handle check writing and payroll deductions. Others take a hands-on approach – they provide human resources functions and health benefits administration.
Information Technology (IT) – If you’re like many small business owners, IT can be confusing. Rather than risk your livelihood, find a trusted IT partner who can offer stability and secure technology options, and who can also play a key role in business continuity. Your partner should explain each recommended service and respond quickly with personal attention if requested. Based on the services rendered, your IT partner could also serve as a competitive advantage, offering you unique upgrades to your current systems. Because IT is tailored to your business’ needs, there is not one solution for everyone, but a service like oDesk is inexpensive and a good place to start looking for a trusted partner.
Logistics - If your company sells or plans to sell online, you must anticipate the volume of packages being sent to customers and all of the logistics that come with it – storage, packing, shipping, returns, customer service, etc. By tapping into an advanced logistics network like Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), you don’t have to worry about the time and labor needed to fulfill online orders and take customer service calls, because they do it for you. Your customers will enjoy a consistent experience, likely at a lower cost to you, and you will free up resources. You can also benefit from Amazon’s free Super Saver and Prime shipping programs if you sell your product on Amazon.com and fulfill orders through FBA.
Design – First impressions matter. In a world that’s becoming more visual, your company’s marketing pieces need to be professional. From your business card to your website, how you sell yourself is as important as how you sell your product. Securing a professional designer to help brand your company will return your investment many times over. Freelance graphic designers or locally-run agencies can usually start from a blank page and create everything you need, in addition to helping you find printers, developers and other resources. To find a designer, check out http://www.AIGA.org, the non-profit professional association for designers.
Supportive Family and Friends – Perhaps the most important strategic partner. When you’re working 15 hour days, a smile and a hug from a spouse or friend can really get you through the toughest times. They are your biggest fans and the ones who lend their ears, their time, and in some cases, their wallets so you can live your dream.
About the Author:
An entrepreneur and small business owner for more than 30 years, Bill Anand is CEO and owner of online retailer http://www.GoVacuum.com and Chantilly-based retailer http://www.VacuumsUnlimitedVirginia.com. He can be reached at 1-888-468-2210.