Do Not Seek International Partners Until You Read This!
Okay... I apologize if that sounded melodramatic, but the truth is that this article could save you hundreds of thousands, if not millions, when it comes to creating a real international business.
Most of you might have already started a website, and think it is "international". Well, think again! Every new person from a culture or nationality you encounter online alone may shun you simply because you have no presence in the country that the visitor comes from. Don't be surprised by these interesting concerns:
#1 - No local telephone number, no business!
If your site doesn't have a number that someone can reach you at, it's already a disadvantage. What blows many people off is the fact that they can't reach you in their own country. This is particularly so when there is a high level of skepticism with online purchases - and you probably have already taken that for granted that everyone is willing to buy online.
#2 - No support during local hours, no business!
If you can't provide support during local business hours, you are also going to lose out. Particularly in places like Singapore, where customers are discerning enough to make checks to safeguard their business interests, you'll be expecting a higher level of scrutiny amidst the skepticism on the internet.
#3 - Only an autoresponder? No business!
Gee. Is this really so difficult to understand? Get yourself an international number. If necessary, open up a representative office when you decide that your business is serious enough to go far.
But for many people, they will balk at the idea of doing this. It's tough, knowing that there are a lot of people who don't really have the financial means. However, there is a better way of doing this - strategic business partnerships.
Are You Really Talking About JVs?
Nope. Gone are the days where JVs really means anything. Don't get me wrong - they are indeed very important people, and you shouldn't consider is 'passe'. It's merely part of an overall strategy. You really have to create a strong alliance with people who are willing to bring money to the table, not just a super affiliate. If there is something that you want to build in a region you are not familiar with, or a place where you can't really leverage, consider rewarding partners to get things done.
These partners have to be able to help you either with culture, infrastructure, resources or presence. In either case, the ability to create this will undoubtedly generate more synergy than you think. Our own partnerships have rung up the tune of millions of dollars, and we are constantly looking at ways to maximize the business we have created further.
On my blog, I talked about finding partners and how difficult it can be. Here are my considerations when looking at partners.
#1 - a clear win-win benefit
It doesn't make sense if someone is not giving exceptional value. There are so many people who could walk up to you and say "let's do business". Why should you? You really need to consider the value of a win-win relationship because both of you need to be making money in order for a business to sustain itself. Yes, it's important, but it's NOT the only thing!
I've seen many small-time competitors repeating the things we do, and it doesn't seem to make sense financially when we work out their numbers. They aren't making enough money to create a joint venture relationship that is truly sustainable. If I want to get a seminar speaker to the region, or a published author on an Asian book tour, I want to make sure that I don't go broke, and neither does my partner!
#2 - a stable business foundation
If you are seeking a business to work with, they should already have a proven business foundation. Obviously, it is better that they have a vested interest in doing this jointly, and that there is going to be some kind of commitment to going into partnership. Does your current partner know how to handle the finances? Does your partner have the capability to handle worst case scenarios in the business venture? Eventually, you must also see a track record of them working with other people. The last thing you want to do is to have people who know absolutely nothing about working with partners!
#3 - innovative and time tested
Did I say time-tested? Ooh. That probably eliminated 95% of your list of potential business partners. Again, I'm talking about the physical investment you intend to put into your strategic business partnership. Your partners must have demonstrated their ability to run their business in a fairly innovative way. You'll recognize this from their failures and their ability to bounce back from them.
#4 - open communication
A strategic business ally must be willing to open up communication. This one is particularly important because without it, assumptions accumulate and this creates a much better working relationship over time. I've worked with partners who do not communicate, and those who actually do, but there's little doubt that communication facilitates solutions, even in the face of problems.
This means you have to get someone whom you can really be honest with - and this is a commodity that's not really for sale. You can't buy a good partner: you can only get connected with people whom you are going to be able to comfortably build a decent business with.
#5 - not overloaded with current responsibilities
The worst that can happen is that the business you are working with is filled with a series of their own responsibilities and unable to focus their priorities on you. This will be quite detrimental! I'd recommend that you ensure that resources are allocated as part of your agreements, so that you don't get involved in a 'dud' agreement where you end up doing all things on your own.
Usually, all these things are ignored in the face of the excitement of a project idea. Listen - project ideas are a dime a dozen. Don't just jump into a joint venture simply because you are hyping yourself up. Get yourself grounded so that your project idea can create fruits based on solid foundations of partnership.
Typical Concerns You Should List
You ought to assess this on your own or with third parties whom you trust.
#1 - does your partner pay quickly and promptly?
If a partner delays payment, I'm not suggesting that he is an evil person. I'm just wondering how much of his operational capabilities are actually optimized. After all, you have to be worried that this person might be doing the same thing to the end customer.
#2 - does your partner focus on profits or service?
I know a whole bunch of people who profess to hate customer service on the internet. They do not want to have anything to do with it because it's tedious. Well, why wouldn't it be? It's about the human relationship. If people are afraid of providing good aftersales service, it may also mean that they won't be willing to sustain a conversation with you.
#3 - does your partner know key performance indicators other than just profit?
I like to ask this question because it tests your ability to remain focused on your partnership outcome. If you are a strong partner, you will find ways to maximize your relationship rather than just make use of another person's relationship to create profit. You might focus on total number of subscribers. You might focus on testimonials that come in. Whatever the case, if you are in a starting relationship, you might want to build a set of performance indicators for each other and commit to this in writing.
In writing? Yeah - in writing. A breach of contract, honestly, is something that happens every time in the world of business. However, if people are willing to take to the contract and commit to this means that they will be more committed. These are people I take in. If the people whom I work with do not fulfill the contract, I don't write them off. I just approach the next venture very, very cautiously.
#4 - is your partner willing to put in commitment effort/money?
Okay - I definitely value people who are willing to put their money where their mouth is. In other words, your potential partner has to be willing to do certain things to earn their keep. What is that? Are they putting in some kind of effort? How is this measured? How will a partner know that he or she is actually living up to this?
If I were a partner, I would like to know what kinds of expectations my partners have of me, and communicate this. Often, when a venture is worthwhile and the assessments have been made, then a business proposition is made to invest resources into them. Once this is done, you do whatever it takes to make your targets happen.
A strategic business alliance is difficult in these times. There is jealousy, backstabbing and lying that happens in the background of any business. However, if you are able to establish the reputation, credibility and trust within a group of people, it will be highly likely that you will build far more than just a joint venture relationship. Taking an alliance to the next level requires a lot of "getting to know", and I hope that you will consider this in a manner that goes beyond just a "special promotion". Trust is one of the most important things that makes the biggest difference in any business that wants to scale massively.