An essential component of any business is relationships. It’s who you know and how you can help each other. Relationship building is how my employer, The Music Hall, does business.
But that’s only half the circle. If you go into a relationship with the understanding that by helping each other, everyone benefits, then you are really onto something.
Call it synergy, call it enlightened self-interest, call it a rising tide that lifts all boats. It doesn’t matter what you call it, the effect is real. So why don’t more business do it?
Business Relationships Take Time
This is not a quick fix. It takes time and effort to develop a genuine relationship with your partners. The Music Hall is a 900-seat historic theater in the heart of downtown Portsmouth, NH and it seems that every production we create or event we host involves partnering with a business, non-profit organization, or charity.
A great example of what I’m talking about is “Vintage Christmas in Portsmouth,” a collaboration between living history museum Strawbery Banke Museum, The City of Portsmouth, downtown hotels and the local chamber of commerce to make Portsmouth a destination in December.
By partnering, we expand our reach. We can offer amenities we couldn’t individually. And we have increased ad-buying power. Instead of competing for holiday dollars, we generate more money for everyone involved by making it easy to book a hotel, find a restaurant, go on a candlelight stroll, see a live show in our gorgeous theater, and get around Portsmouth’s lovely historic downtown.
Heading into its seventh year, Vintage Christmas is a boon to all involved. The hotels are happy to have something unique for guests. The Music Hall and Strawbery Banke are happy with increased ticket sales. The City and the chamber are happy because it is yet another way for Portsmouth to be a focal point in local, regional, and national media. The restaurants and shops are happy because we deliver customers to their doorsteps in December.
This is how the synergy works. When the restaurants are full, The Music Hall benefits. When The Music Hall has a show, the restaurants are full. There is a feeling that there is something going on and that feeds the feeling that there is, well, something going on. Portsmouth’s most prolific restaurateurs, Jay McSharry, points out the importance of The Music Hall in drawing business as a key reason he continues to support The Music Hall.
“For my business and many others downtown, The Music Hall is a key factor for success, an engine for growth,” said McSharry.
The Vintage Christmas example is a huge undertaking with a lot of staff resources. But collaboration can be simple, too. For example, you could host a social networking event that raises money for charity through foursquare checkins. It can be really easy. Really. Here are some tips.
Find the Right Collaborators
Many great ideas falter because one or both parties don’t follow through. You have a meeting and everyone is really excited about the idea, but nothing happens. Avoid this by choosing partners carefully and making your expectations clear. Do your homework, and make sure you’re not the problem.
Maintain the Relationship
Once you have that first collaboration with someone, make sure that you do a post-mortem. Find out what worked and what didn’t, make plans to do it again, better. Keep notes. Remember that these things often work best when it is not all about sell, sell, sell. It is a chance to engage your customers in a different and meaningful way.
Get Out There And Do It
While it may seem daunting, it doesn’t have to be. The best way to learn is to do. Once you start looking with fresh eyes at the possibilities around you and start talking to people, the ideas will start pouring out. Not all the ideas are feasible. Knowing the difference is a learned skill. Start small, and know when to say when.
What do you think? How have you partnered with other businesses in win-win situations? Let us know what you think below and be sure to subscribe to our RSS feed to get regular Vital posts when they’re fresh.Guest blogger Monte Bohanan is electronic & new technology manager at The Music Hall in Portsmouth, NH where he manages the website, social media and IT. He is also the head honcho of Tide Mill Studio, a Web design and marketing solutions company focused on small, micro-business and nonprofits.