Four Fumbles To Avoid When Seeking Partners

Before you get the wrong idea here, this post has nothing to do with finding love.

It’s about finding business buddies that you want to work with: to join them in their practice or subcontract your services to. Or to find others with whom to build your referral network. Those kinds of partners.

When done properly, partners can magnify your impact and income fast. You extend your reach into new markets and leverage the power of their brand, their name, and their list. You ramp your learning. You find trusted allies, building close relationships and social community – something that so many of us solopreneurs desperately want and need in order to feel connected and vital.

But you may be struggling with the myriad of how-to’s, like:

  • How do I find the right partner to connect with?
  • How do I get their attention?
  • How can I ensure that they’ll choose me?
  • How do I make sure they pay me what I’m worth? That I get a fair deal?
  • What kind of business arrangement is right for me?

You get one shot to make a killer first impression with a potential partner. Without clarity on the answers to the above questions – and more – your opportunity to seal the deal may be lost forever.

Healthy partnerships rely on relationship principles not unlike those that you might employ with a dear friend or soul mate. So, yeah, I guess this post does have a little to do with love!

There are four big fumbles that can ruin your partnership potential. Avoid them by making a few moves that can carry you into the end zone for the big score.

How to increase your odds of finding a fabulous partner

1. It’s NOT all about you. An ND pal of mine and I were chatting about a big name health guru who was a legend in her own mind, so to speak. She was the center of every conversation she had! He joked that talking with her ended up with her saying “OK, enough about me… let’s talk about you. What do YOU think of me?”

The principle of being other-centered is massively important for healthy partnerships (and friendships, marriages, and client relationships). Yet people persist in dominating partnership discussions with self-centeredness. Spending this priceless opportunity bragging about how great you are will get you nowhere.

The second violation of this principle involves gushing on about the potential partner’s fabulousness. This often comes across as “sucking up.” That won’t work either.

So what should you talk about?

The client.

Spend your time acknowledging your shared interest with your prospective partner – client outcomes! Discuss your difficult client cases and include clinical strategies you’ve used that helped them to get well. Or ask him about his toughest cases and sleuth out where your particular work may be able to help. Identify areas where your potential partner might be able to support your work, too. Remember, it’s not all about you.

A friend of mine, Dr. Rebecca Hunton, shared this information in one of our Prosperous Practitioner Summits. We were discussing effective partnership tactics and she used an example that I think is brilliant. She said that a nutritionist might reach out to an orthopedic surgeon using this type of pitch:

“Dr. Jones, here’s a copy of an article in the orthopedic literature that says even a ten-pound weight loss before knee surgery improves outcomes by 300%. Are you sending your overweight patients for nutritional counseling before they get their knee replaced?”

The reason this is so smart is that it a) focuses on the patient (and not the nutritionist or the doctor), and b) appeals to the orthopedist with something he truly cares about: post-surgery success. Like I said… brilliant!

2. Pick a niche. Yes, niching is a foundational marketing strategy for your practice and is fundamental to everything I teach. But it’s also hugely important for finding partners. The reason is because it creates common areas of understanding and greases the wheels of communication between you and a person who doesn’t know you from Adam.

Say you’re a naturopath hoping to connect with the conventional medical crowd in your community. You know how tricky it is to get in front of this group, let alone get their ear.

Now imagine a conversation where you say something like, “Oh yes, I can help every condition you work with, from heart disease to cancer to autoimmune conditions to blah, blah, blah (you see where I’m going here).” Educating a conventional doctor about root cause and holistic therapies will leave her cold. First of all, she’s not interested…yet. Plus, that is NOT the goal of your meeting!

Instead, imagine approaching a conventional specialist who works with the same population as you. You are seeing the same patient as her, have similar knowledge about the research, tools, solutions, and patient needs. You speak the same language. Now the conversation is less about convincing the potential partner about how functional medicine can help everyone with everything and more about how your therapies in combination with hers can improve the specific outcomes you both want for a specific target patient.

Bottom line: The more finely-tuned your niche, the more likely you’ll be to track down the appropriate partner(s). And the more compelling your dialog will be when you have your initial conversation with them, too.

3. What value do you bring to the table? One of the biggest mistakes you can make when seeking out partners is assuming that you are the best (nutritionist, ND, health coach, LAc, etc.) they’ve met. Look, I know you’re great and you know you’re great. But from their perspective, the question they’re going to ask is “why you and not someone else?”

A past client of mine complained about this to me several months ago when he was seeking a nutritionist for his functional medicine clinic. He said that every nutritionist and health coach who came to his door wanted to have an assigned office in his clinic and basically “sit around waiting for him to pass along clients to them.”

Would you want to bring on someone into your business like this? Nope, neither did he.

No matter how good you are at your clinical skill, the big difference between those who get partnerships and those who don’t has to do with “added value.” What other skills, talents, attributes do you bring to the table? For the most part, a partner will favor practitioners who will help grow their practice. Here’s what you might offer:

  • Bring along your existing clients into the partner’s practice
  • Offer help with social media marketing, blogging, or website management
  • Demonstrate an interest and experience in public speaking
  • Include their clinic in your existing networking efforts
  • Show a willingness to help with practice management

Figure out where you might be able to lend a hand in generating revenue or lowering costs and make this an important play with your potential partner. It will edge out others who may be competing for the same spot as you…and will communicate that you are delighted and determined to contribute to the clinic’s overall success.

4. Sweat the big stuff. There are many horror stories where the fine details were never worked out and partnerships ended in pain and misfortune. It’s easy to be fooled. We work in an industry where the underlying principle is “First Do No Harm.” But while that may be true when it comes to your therapy, unfortunately, it’s not the case when it comes to business arrangements. I know. I’ve been there…and it hurts like hell.

There are numerous things to work through with a potential partner. These include:

  • Your status: are you an employee or contractor? Partner or co-owner?
  • What will be your pay rate? When and how often will you be paid?
  • What is the duration of the engagement: how long will you work for the partner and what are the termination arrangements?
  • Do you share in profits? Are there bonuses offered?
  • Who owns the intellectual property that you develop under this arrangement (think of eBooks, clinical programs, blog posts, online programs, etc.)?
  • Who is responsible for bringing in new clients for your services?
  • Are you responsible for any costs: rent, supplies, marketing, etc.?
  • What liability insurance must you take on?
  • Does the role that you are offered seem fair, given the financial return?
  • Does ANYTHING at all feel uncomfortable, unclear, or out of line?

Everything that is discussed should be formalized in writing and reviewed by your attorney, especially if the arrangement is complex. If it’s a straight referral arrangement and no money is changing hands, then it’s not a big deal. But most everything else should get a once-over by legal counsel. If your potential partner says, “We don’t need a contract. I trust you.”, let them know that this is simply the way you do things – it’s not negotiable.

There is one specific scenario that I would strongly recommend you avoid: one that pays a straight profit-sharing arrangement. Unless you have complete oversight and equal say in how income is going to be used in the business, you stand to lose money.

Can you trust the partner to make good financial decisions in the business? Are they using business monies for personal things like their wardrobe, car or other non-business items? All of these things impact profit and without a say in all financial decisions, you are at the mercy of the partner’s whims.

If your partner won’t allow you access to any of these two things and insists on a straight profit-sharing model, it’s a bad deal. Walk away and don’t look back.

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Comments (6)

  • Kimberly

    What a great article. I have wondered about this for a while and now have a better understanding of what I need to do to be successful at finding a partner and what kinds of things we need to be talking about.

    • Miriam

      I’m glad you’ve found some ideas to move forward with partners, Kimberly. Finding like-minded partners has tons of benefits. Be sure to let me know about your success!

  • susan

    another brilliant, succinct, informative, well written piece of education/advice from one of the best. You are like E.F. Hutton, Miriam, when you talk, people listen!

    • Miriam

      Susan, you are so kind! Thanks, as always, for your continued support.

  • janine henkel

    Love this. Practical and doable. Thanks for showing us the ropes. I would have screwed it up for sure.

    • Miriam

      Well, perhaps it may have taken you a bit longer, Janine… but doubtful that you would have screwed it up!

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