Last week I discussed the problems around networking. One key way into this was these two images:
Too much “networking” is of the left variety – sometimes a spark will jump across but rarely. In most cases in a few months time you have no idea who that contact is on your LinkedIn list.
On the other hand (ha!) it can take some time to get to the right image – walking hand-in-hand in the same direction. Besides, in a world of change, one rarely walks a long path parallel to any person or organisation. Furthermore in a world of overload one can simply lack the time to develop such a “hand in hand” approach.
The answer is micro-partnerships 🙂 Or for those lean startup fans a different type of “P” in “MVP”. What are they?
First a little background. Around a decade ago I spent a *lot* of time trying to set up and setting up partnerships. A decade before that I set up a tripartite partnership (around Polish mass privatisation). Never volunteer for that kinda duty guys 😉
Long story short I made all the mistakes. Many times over. However I came out with some simple – and lean – principles. I rarely see these used but in a world of overload and one of increasing specialisation they have the ability to make a huge difference to you and your business.
Formal partnerships are a nightmare. They take ages to set up, the due-diligence lasts forever and lawyers – paid per hour – spin out documents like a printer gone mad. They then take a lot of management and over time personnel change, companies directions change – and well the other company was never as motivated as you to sell your stuff in all likelihood.
Far more common for startups is the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps and then sell out to BigCo” model.
There is however a third way which works as well for individuals as it does for small companies. It avoids the “mega-overhead” of formal partnerships and the isolation (and inefficiency) of tugging at your own bootstraps. This is what I call the micro-partnership.
The simplest form of micro-partnership would be to get together for an hour – you pick my brains for half an hour, I pick yours. In a complex society everyone has something useful to teach you. It’s a real win-win situation.
The same can apply at a company level – we run a seminar for you on widgets and you run one for us on wombats.
This has immediate benefits and gets beyond the “exchange business cards”, or “be polite and smile” or “purely sales pitch” approaches to networking.
This has longer term benefits as it’s an “incremental commitment” model (see Sales Secrets II – Staircases Not High Jumps), a “lean startup applied to partnerships” model, and a “dating model” (the 2nd of the 5 Tao of BizDev design principles):
In the short-term you get to a have a coffee and a mutually beneficial, focused interaction. That’s valuable in itself. It is also the “lean” way to avoid (as I did a decade ago) having lots of “in principle, exploration” business conversations that took up months, were always focused on the 15th bridge we would cross after we cross the prior 14, and which in most cases never yielded any fruit anyway.
So this one is a “guaranteed win” for y’all. Try it out – first as a simple networking alternative and later perhaps in a more corporate way.
In an overloaded world it’s the way to go 🙂