As you navigate the world of small business, you’ll be hit with challenges and opportunities you never anticipated. As you grow, you will increasingly encounter and interact with people who will compete with you, help you, collaborate with you, and try to rip you off—and they’ll come from all sorts of angles and directions. How you handle these unanticipated communications can be critical to the future of your business.
How would you react, for instance, if someone you thought was a competitor came to you with a potential collaboration? What if someone offered you money to work with their company, but the tradeoffs were unclear?
When such opportunities present themselves, one must reflect on the goals of the business and how the deal can best embody those goals. Here are some things to keep in mind:
1. Remember why you got into what you're doing in the first place.
How would this new deal affect the mission you laid out when you started? Would it better empower you to execute on that mission, or not? Sometimes people get "lost in the deal" and can forget the original objective. The best practice is to consistently question the intention.
2. Be prepared to share control (which means, in many cases, losing control).
If somebody's going to give you money or some other form of support, odds are they're going to want something in exchange, and that often manifests in the form of some sort of influence of your project. You should be comfortable with a new dynamic for making decisions.
3. Think about the future.
If you take the deal, where does it leave you in the future? Could it expand your options, or constrict them? Does the deal improve or worsen your "worst case scenario" and "best case scenario?"
With any partnership, there must be trust on both sides. All of the interactions you have in advance give you insight into what the relationship will be like once you're formally aligned. Make sure you’re comfortable with the idea of working with the people you're making a deal with – once there’s a legally binding agreement, the issues that come up get a lot more complicated.
5. Listen to your gut.
Ultimately, everything is a judgment call. The terms you negotiate may go more or less in your favor, but whether the deal is something you want to take is something personal to you, as the person who runs your business. Your gut may tell you something that nothing on paper can. Whether it agrees with the arrangement is critical, because the day you sign the papers you should feel completely comfortable.