Any business you choose to partner with is in a way, an extension of your business. You contribute to the continuous operations of their business and they to yours. Partnering with them means you agree with their values and they with yours. And that you are not ashamed to be associated with them. To your customers, it is sort of a recommendation. They trust your brand, therefore they trust whatever you recommend.
Beyond a recommendation, it is also validation and acceptance of the services and the actions of the other business. This is why a partnership requires careful consideration. Chief among those considerations is what your customers think of this business. And what this partnership suggests about your brand. Plus, they are not things you can easily correct. It is wired into every one to make these conclusions. Remember the saying, show me your friend, and I will tell you who you are? Well, it all makes sense now, doesn’t it?
The consequences of partnering with the wrong business are as grievous as customers leaving you for partnering with a company of such standing. Worst case scenario, you could even have demonstrations calling for your business to be sanctioned for ever daring to be associated with the wrong business. If you are an SME/Startup, this is not a situation you want to find yourself in. The giant companies can probably turn the situation around fast, but it definitely won't be that easy for you.
To avoid getting into this hole, here are five things you should consider before partnering with a business, either as their provider or them as your provider.
Values: the company’s values determine the internal culture and interaction with clients. It also determines what is too far and too low for the company. Just by looking at the values of a company, you can begin to see why they are a good choice or not.
Records: this is very important. Check how they have conducted business in the past and if there is any record of fraudulent dealings. But it is not only about digging up skeletons in their cupboard. It also gives you an insight into how they do business and how you can negotiate favourable terms for your business. It prepares you for what to expect and what you can do in such cases. Is this company known for engaging in illegal deals and getting on the wrong side of authorities? Just imagine you partner with them, the following week they do something shady, and their licence is withdrawn. You probably have even paid them. Now you are stranded and have to look for a new partner.
Product and services: while this is the first reason you would be considering a partnership with them in the first place, it is good to carefully consider every other thing they do apart from the particular product and service need.
Do their other products and services offer you an opportunity to expand? Do they offer additional products and services that you need? You can get a better deal when more than one product/service is involved. Business Partnership is all about what is best for your business.
Public opinion: what does the general public think of the company? The last thing you need is your business sharing in the public outrage another business is still trying to deal with. Also, partnering with a business that is perceived as strong, reliable, and fast-growing helps your business to be perceived the same way.
Existing Customers: you have very little or no business at all with their customers. However, their existing customers can suggest if they are likely to get into trouble anytime soon or not, either with the authorities or the court of public opinion.
Do they support illegal businesses? Do they support businesses with products and services that are harmful to humanity? Of course, they would not reveal this to the public. It is why you have to do your research and make it through.
Nevertheless, there is no 100% safeguard. Even after considering all that is listed above, you might fall for a company that is good at masking its harmful practices and affiliations. Always remember when there is a scandal, your loyalty is to your business and your customers. If it's detrimental to your business image, leave them and find a new partner. Move on to a better company. It is not your responsibility to carry them on your head back to success despite its grievous consequences on your business. Don’t let blind loyalty ruin the image of your company that is still under construction.
Also, do your due diligence. If the allegations are untrue or just a misunderstanding, there is no problem showing a little solidarity. We all need a shoulder to lean on in distress. But, do this wisely so you can protect your business at the same time. You could remain their partner but not make this public. You could offer an explanation to the public on their behalf. An explanation translates you can be held responsible if things turn out otherwise. So you better be sure they are worth it.