Photo: CoWomen

Introducing a blog and video series with Follow the Hummingbird, a B-Corp business consultation org with a mission to facilitate the growth for the socially conscious business ecosystem. This series is meant for individuals starting a new business, a side business, or considering starting one. There’s a lot to learn, whether you have taken multiple business courses or not. Before you just let just passion dictate all your decisions, check out some broad insights that are applicable across multiple industries from the Hummingbird team.


Written by Ari Goldfarb,  Author & VP, COO at Follow the Hummingbird

Owning and operating a business can feel lonely. A lot of relationships can feel transactional and if you’re good, you hope more money is coming in than is going out. However, one approach to take in order to operate with a few more friends is identifying strategic partnerships.

While these can be formal or informal, the basic definition is a mutually beneficial relationship between two enterprises. They can be used to build a brand, stimulate revenue, or grow your customer base. The standards here are as flexible as you’re willing to make them. Follow the Hummingbird has exchanged consulting services for sourdough bread, and let me be the first to tell you it’s worth EVERY SLICE (especially with creamy Irish butter).

Getting started.

First, it takes some level of self-awareness to pursue a partnership. An individual or organization has to be familiar with their strengths, and weaknesses so a partnership can either fill a need or double down on a strength. The best option for this stage is to run a SWOT analysis with your team on a whiteboard so it can be clearly illustrated where your growth potential is and what’s holding you back.

Identifying shared values.

A partnership needs to stem from genuine connection and not all shared values are surface level. If a brand or organization is accomplishing a result you wish to emulate, identifying values and core missions can get to the roots of how two organizations operate and where the overlap is. We once spoke with an entrepreneur in the hospitality industry who didn’t believe he had a social mission, however when we spoke about his hiring process, he mentioned he primarily works with reformed convicts re-entering the workforce. When we showed him how that did serve a social mission for the betterment of the community he chuckled and admitted he never looked at it from that perspective. More likely than not, businesses you overlap with will have at least one core value that intersects with yours.

Once you identify shared values it’s time to move on to the shared mission. RL Stine, the author of Goosebumps, said with any story it’s important to identify the end first so you can spend the rest of the time getting there. Clearly illustrating the final result of your partnership will allow the team to come together and lay down concrete steps to take.

Brooke Cagle

Clear goals.

There’s a cliché, good fences make good neighbors, and that can’t be more true for strategic partnerships. It’s important that all parties clearly define their responsibilities and eliminate all gray areas. Ambiguity creates more stress than opportunity in a partnership and the more clearly one can index their planned actions the more comfortable both parties will become moving forward.

Formalized strategic partnerships are a great way for businesses to expand operations and build a connection to their community. Don’t be afraid to inquire about one at your next coffee, because chances are the person sitting across from you is struggling to ask the same question.

Check out more from the team at Follow the Hummingbird, based in Buffalo and New Orleans, here.