All independent professionals and small business owners reach a point at which they realize the options are grow bigger or stagnate. For some, whether it is due to budget, risk aversion, logistics or other constraints, hiring more full-time employees may not be a viable option.
To prevent stagnation at this precarious phase of business development, consider the value of working with other independent professionals as strategic partners or working within a contractor-subcontractor model.
Identifying Strategic Partners
In this context, a strategic partner is an individual or entity with whom you can partner on a given project or series of projects, for a specific client or type of client. Allying with a strategic partner can allow your small or micro-business to go after bigger clients, respond to RFPs and enhance your offerings to prospective and continuing clients without having to invest in formally restructuring your organization or hiring expert-level professionals with full time salaries and benefits.
To find the ideal strategic partner that enables you to enhance your offerings and seek bigger contracts or jobs with larger scopes, it is important to identify a professional whose level of expertise, standards, and ethics are commensurate with your own.
You can find prospective strategic partners through traditional networking strategies both online and off, by cultivating relationships with individuals that you have worked with on project teams, and by searching for experts whose body of work and areas of interest complement your own.
Teaming with Strategic Partners
In seeking a strategic partner, it is important to look for a co-professional whose unique expertise is complementary to your own and, by extension, relevant and valuable to your clients.
If you are a communications and marketing consultant looking to offer your clients more, you may consider teaming up with a strategic partner who is a graphic designer or a web designer. In a case like this, the effect for the client (and for you as the business owner with the primary client relationship) is two-fold. First, it enables you to deliver your client the marketing power of a full scale creative shop. Second, it allows for the seamless implementation of the expert ideas you generated as a consultant because the team dedicated to implementing those recommendations is your own. Simply put, by becoming a part of the full project cycle, from ideas through implementation, you have validated your own expert claims and ensured that you can deliver exactly what you promised to your client.
Finding Trustworthy Subcontractors
In other cases, you may be looking for a more traditional contractor-subcontractor relationship, namely to farm out aspects of a project in order to free up your time for the other functions of your business or to focus on higher level project demands.
To address this type of need, working with a subcontractor who specializes in a specific aspect of a project is the perfect solution for a growing small business. Finding a trustworthy, high quality subcontractor can be a challenge. As a subcontractor, the individual’s work needs to align with the standards of your company, whether or not the subcontractor ever interacts with your client or customer.
Networking with other professionals, reaching out to local universities, and posting on industry-specific job boards and media outlets are all good ways to begin the search for a subcontractor you can trust.
Working with strategic partners and subcontractors does not carry the same risks that hiring a full-time employee can, but it does require a leap of faith. And that is a necessary leap to take because it is giving your growing business the due diligence it deserves, reducing your risk of burnout, and improving your ability to meet the increased demands that should come to you as your business develops.