Q: How can I find companies to partner with? I have a seminar company called New Level Seminars and I want to find organizations to work with to offer my seminars to their members.

Bob Smith

New Level Seminars, Chicago, IL


A: Anyone considering a partnership with you will go to the Web to find out more about New Level Seminars. My searches turned up nothing. The point being, recruiting partners from among strangers, you need to have the outward-facing elements of the business ready to validate discussion points.

Next, make sure you have clarified what kind of organizations will make good partners. Your question begins with “companies,” but describes wanting to find organizations with “members” — which sounds more like your target will be associations.

Assuming these issues have been clarified, you will need to find ways to begin dialogues with leaders of the target organizations. This could mean old-fashioned cold calling, but remember that what you are “selling” is a relationship. It might be much more engaging to have first contact with these people in a face-to-face situation, which points to networking at places they frequent or through referrals from existing contacts.

Once you have a dialogue established, remember some suggestions from Guy Kawasaki in his book, “Art of the Start.”

Good partnerships always deliver mutual benefits. Over the years, many hungry business owners with nothing to share have approached me to “partner” with them, when all they really wanted was access to my client list. Worse yet are what Kawasaki calls “Barney” partnerships, which bring no value to the partnership other than publicly expressing “I love you, and you love me.”

This leads to perhaps the most important aspect of partnerships: Kawasaki firmly dictates that you should partner for “spreadsheet reasons.” In his opinion, if it doesn’t add to the bottom line, there’s no point. I consider this a bit more broadly, taking into account the value of other forms of “capital.” Think about the partnership between a large corporation and a nonprofit. The path to the bottom line may be long and winding, but along the way, there may be many valuable benefits on both sides.


Michael Porter is the director of the master’s in health care communication at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business.