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How to build strategic business partnerships


two males sitting at a table outside near an industrial site looking at a tablet

In a strategic alliance, you and another company agree to engage in a mutually beneficial project while retaining your independence. It’s easier to build business resilience if you have several strategic partners helping you accomplish your goals.

Consider these three key partnership strategies and opportunities for your business, including Meridian partnerships that allow you to access benefits that will save you time and money.

1. Form a strategic business partnership

Think about partnering with non-competing companies in the same, or aligned, industry - perhaps you could work together to reach the same customers.

A classic example of this strategy in action is the partnership between Starbucks and Indigo. Starbucks provides the coffee to customers, while Indigo stocks the books. Both companies can grow sales by cross-selling to the same customers and they become stronger because of this arrangement.

Other good examples include:

  • A dry cleaner and a clothing retailer.
  • A roofer cross-promoting a landscaping company.
  • A lawyer recommending an accountant.
  • A pet store promoting a local dog walking business.

Here’s a quick guide to jumpstarting a strategic alliance:

  1. Make a list of non-competing businesses and organizations that also sell to your customers.
  2. Think about ways you can work together and put it into a short proposal.
  3. Reach out to the business or organization to arrange a conversation.
  4. Set up a plan to run a pilot project to test the alliance, along with clear metrics to measure outcomes (for example, a 20% increase in sales for each partner).
  5. If the pilot proves successful, draft a longer-term agreement covering two or more years and renewal after that.
  6. Run any arrangement by your lawyer before implementing it.
  7. Set a launch date and execute.

Key ingredients of a successful strategic alliance include mutual benefit, respect for each other’s independence, a clear contract between everyone, and a set end date with a renewal option.

2. Join business associations

Associations exist to help develop your business, connect you with other business owners, provide learning opportunities, and advocate on your behalf with levels of government.

Here are some of the top associations to consider:

Canadian Association of Women Executives & Entrepreneurs (CAWEE): For nearly forty years, they've been helping Canadian businesswomen build valuable, lasting relationships to strengthen their businesses. Learn more about CAWEE.

Chamber of Commerce: With 135 member Chambers and Boards of Trade and over 60,000 members, your local Chamber of Commerce is a powerful organization ready to help grow your business with networking opportunities, learning events, and member benefits. Find your local Chamber by visiting the Ontario Chamber of Commerce website.

Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB): This national organization offers support services to small business owners. In addition to advocating on behalf of independent business owners, they also offer business news, COVID-19 support, and advice for businesses across Canada through their website.

Business Networking International (BNI): This for-profit organization provides a positive, supportive, and structured environment for the development and exchange of quality business referrals. Learn more about BNI.

3. Take advantage of opportunities for Meridian Members

Meridian has several of strategic alliances set up to help our business Members. Some of these opportunities you can pursue on your own, while for others it’s best to speak to with a Business Advisor.

Accord Financial: Expand your access to capital with our partnership with Accord Financial. Members also have access to loans of up to $20 million for larger businesses looking for capital.

Morrison Condo Corp Financial: Working with Meridian, Morrison Financial provides term loans to Canadian condominium corporations to help with major repairs, replacements, additions and alterations to common elements. Speak with your Business Advisor for details, and learn more about Morrison Condo Corp Financial.

Ontario Chamber of Commerce: Through an affinity partnership, Meridian Members can enjoy exclusive no-fee banking offers, discounts on service fees, and receive perks for employees. To learn more, contact your Business Advisor.

Payworks: Simplify the payroll process in your business and free your time spent on payroll tasks by signing up for Payworks. Learn more on the Payworks website.

A little more advice

One of the great joys of owning a business is the chance to meet and work with other like-minded entrepreneurs and business leaders. Working with strategic partners, joining key business associations, and taking advantage of new opportunities can help increase revenue, decrease costs, and improve business resilience. And it may be also be a lot of fun.

  • Further steps you can take to develop strategic business partnerships:
  • Identify potential business alliance partners and approach them to find out how you could mutually benefit.
  • Talk with other business owners about organizations and associations they have joined to determine what may be best for you.
  • Once you form an alliance or join an organization, be sure to allocate enough time in your work week to invest in the new relationship.

Learn how Meridian can help build your business by connecting with a Meridian Business Advisor.

Learn more about managing your business

How to build cash reserves for your business
Understanding factoring for business financing
7 ways to prepare your business for the unexpected

Meridian Credit Union communications are intended for informational purposes only and do not constitute financial advice or an opinion on any issue. We would be pleased to provide additional details or advice about specific situations if desired.

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