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Growing Your Interior Design Business: 6 Tips for Building Strategic Partnerships in the Industry

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Behind the Design- How to Grow a Interior Design Business with Strategic Partnerships

Building an interior design business from the ground up is an adventure that can be highly rewarding, but it also has the potential to be stressful — especially if you’re building it alone. Managing a business on your own not only puts all of the financial risks on your shoulders but also requires a huge amount of time and effort from just one person. 

More often these days, those who are planning on starting an interior design business choose to team up in strategic partnerships. These partnerships can make managing a business easier, but only if you choose the right person and if you take the time to develop the relationship into one that’s beneficial to both participants. What exactly is a strategic partnership, and how can you find the right person to team up with?


What Is a Strategic Partnership? 

A strategic partnership is an arrangement between two or more companies — or potential companies — that helps both businesses succeed. Usually, these partnerships take place between businesses that don’t compete but complement each other’s services or products. 

In a strategic partnership, the partners remain independent but share the benefits and risks in decisions that they make together. Examples of partnerships for an interior design business could be between a designer and a supplier or even between a real estate firm where clients may seek interior designers. 

Building a strategic partnership allows you to leverage each other’s strengths to offer better services to clients, increase your profits, and expand into new markets.


Pros and Cons of Strategic Partnerships

Getting a strategic partner for your interior design business offers both benefits and drawbacks. By weighing these against one another, you can decide whether it’s an option that will work for your business. 


Benefits of Strategic Partnerships

One of the most important benefits that a strategic partner offers is the chance to have access to new customers. Partnerships between complementary and non-competitive companies are some of the strongest because they introduce them to clients who may need both businesses. 

You also have the chance to enter markets you would otherwise not have access to. For example, partnering with a company overseas gives you access to international customers. 

Strategic partners also help you build better brand awareness. Your business can gain visibility, and people can start recognizing your brand because they see it more often. It’s tough for small businesses to get their name out into the world, but if you join with an influencer or someone who has a slightly better-known business, you can get your brand seen by more people. 

Another benefit of strategic partnerships is that you share resources. Smaller businesses often struggle to afford recruiting or expanding, but when you and a partner combine your resources, you can better afford to take those steps. 

For example, on your own, you may not be able to afford to rent an office or a showroom, but by joining with a partner, both of you can contribute to the costs. The same thing applies if you want to participate in expos to get more people to know your brand but can’t afford to get floor space. 

A strategic partnership also brings added value to your existing clients. Finding new clients is great, but you also want to keep offering your existing customers the services they need. If you know your client base requires lighting options for their spaces, partnering with a business that offers unique lighting fixtures helps clients avoid having to go out in search of what they need.  


Drawbacks of Strategic Partnerships

Drawbacks are usually connected to not making the right partnership. They can include communication issues that make running your business more difficult. People often have different ways of communicating, which poses challenges when trying to run a cohesive business. Communication issues have the potential to lead to negative customer experiences. 

Personality clashes are also a worry when you try a strategic partnership. Different workflows can make working together more complicated and might also create challenges for clients. 

In some instances, there may be an issue of reduced productivity. By having to work together, decisions take longer, and putting projects together may become more of a struggle. 

When you bring two companies together, some resources may become redundant. You might not need two showrooms, but you can still be legally bound to the spaces. If you have employees, cuts may be necessary. 


How to Develop Strategic Partnerships

When thinking about putting together a strategic partnership, there are six crucial things you want to keep in mind. 


1. Define Your Goals and Objectives

Before you search for a strategic partner, having a clear idea of what your goals and objectives should be for your business is essential. The only way to find a partner that offers the help you need is to ensure that they align with your goals, but you can’t do that until you know exactly what those goals are. 

Once you reach out to a partner, speak about these objectives. You want to be on the same page. If you intend to focus on building a national client base, but the other person wants to pay more attention to international reach, the partnership can start on the wrong foot. 


2. Find a Partner That Aligns With Your Brand

You have a brand to uphold and promote, and the strategic partners you choose need to align with it. It can be confusing to clients to see you partner with someone who doesn’t have much of a connection to your brand. As an interior designer, for example, partnering with someone in the clothing industry may not be the best option because it’s not likely that your clients will benefit from it. 

Consider whether your potential partner’s values also align with yours. If you are all about green products and services or vegan choices for interior design, choosing to join forces with a company that sells real leather couches may not be the best choice. 

A good way of finding a partner that aligns with your brand is to ask for professional referrals. Ask people who know your business and your goals. 


3. Look for Mutually Beneficial Partnerships

The only way to have a successful strategic partnership is to ensure that all participants get something out of the experience. If your business is the one that’s getting the most out of the arrangement, your partner will be less likely to put much of an effort into the partnership. 

It’s also important to know what kind of client base the other business is bringing into the partnership. It’s common for businesses that are just starting to want to reach out to larger companies, but that may not be beneficial for both partners. When choosing a partner, always ask what you will be getting out of the arrangement. 

You don’t want to lose clients or revenue, so if you find that the other business is negatively impacting your bottom line or affecting your relationships with your clients, getting out of the partnership is essential. When you take stock of everything, your strategic partners have to help, not hurt your business. 


4. Research Your Potential Partner

It’s not enough to have a fun conversation over coffee with someone and decide to make them your strategic partner. You have to research their business and see what their expertise is in their industry. If they’ve partnered with other businesses before, reach out to them to see what the experience was like. It will give you a huge insight into what you can expect. 

You may also want to ask for a business plan or a detailed report on their objectives to ensure they work with your goals. Finding the right partner not only means getting some help for your business but also bringing benefits to your clients. If your partner can’t offer something to your customer base, it’s likely not the right partnership. 

Vet the company but also vet the products or services they provide. If you join forces with a business that offers cheaply made or unreliable products, your clients will assume that you endorse them — making you less reliable, too. 


5. Have a Legal Written Agreement

Even if you’re friends with the person you’re partnering with, having a legal written arrangement is vital. It doesn’t have to be a complicated document, but you should have it drawn up by a lawyer to help protect your business. 

In the agreement, detail the dates from which it will be effective and outline any clauses that might affect the validity of the arrangement. The document should also detail where the assets will go and how they’ll be divided between parties. If your potential partner doesn’t feel comfortable with a written agreement, they’re likely not the right person to get into business with. 


6. Work Out the Details

In the excitement of starting this mutual adventure, you may not focus on the day-to-day tasks that impact both of your businesses. This is a mistake. You want to have a clear idea of what you will be expected to contribute, from office supplies to marketing materials. 

Not addressing these details from the start will only create issues in the future. Even if it feels boring and you want to focus on the bigger picture, sit down with your partner to talk about this early in the relationship. 

One important aspect of this is communication. Communication styles vary, and some people prefer to meet in person to discuss things, while others like to get everything in writing via email. Establish the type of daily communications you want to have and make sure you know how to reach the person in an emergency. 


Helping Your Business Grow

Being on your own as you start an interior design business can slow down your growth and even hinder your potential. Choosing the right strategic partners allows you to attract a larger client base and increase brand awareness to demographics and markets you may not otherwise have reached.

To make the best decisions for your business, always carefully vet the partners you’re considering and speak with a lawyer so you can draw up a written agreement that protects both parties. With just a bit of effort, you can find the strategic partner that your business deserves. 


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