You’ve been successful in building partnerships with many different groups, and those same skills can help you build a relationship with a business. You may be concerned about differences in terminology, operating philosophies, and overarching goals, but you have the skill set you need. Just apply the same practices you use when connecting with nonprofits, local agencies, and community residents.
Using Your Existing Skills
1. Aligning Goals
The same active listening and conversational skills you've used before can help you and a business representative get on the same page.
While the primary goals of local businesses may differ from the primary goals of other organizations you’ve worked with, the same active listening and conversational skills you’ve used before can help you and a business representative find where your goals intersect. Learning more about the business, their values, goals, and vision for the future will help you discover opportunities for partnership.
For example, you may learn one of the goals of your potential business partner is to attract and retain talented employees. Helping the business adopt a family friendly workplace can help further both the business's goal as well as your goal of creating safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for all children.
2. Driving Action
The same organizational and management skills you use to keep stakeholders active can help you keep businesses engaged.
Businesses may desire concrete actions and expectations to help them see how they "fit in" with what you are doing and how they can make an impact. The same organizational and management skills you use to keep stakeholders engaged and initiatives on track are the same skills that will help you work productively with businesses to develop tangible and achievable action steps.
For example, before each meeting, share goals for the meeting with your potential business partner including action items you hope to accomplish by the end of the meeting. This will help increase the productivity of your meetings and interactions as well as help both you and your partners move toward concrete accomplishments.
3. Building Momentum
Setting short-term milestones, like you do with other partners, will help your business partners feel like their investment of time and energy is paying off.
Just like with public health departments and your other partners, employees in companies have multiple responsibilities and pressure to be productive and efficient with their time. Setting short-term milestones will help your business partners feel like their investment of time and energy is paying off while you work together toward your larger goals.
For example, while your overarching goal may be for the business to become a champion for the cause and strengthen their workplace to be more supportive of families, a short-term success may be for the company to include language about safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for all children in a company newsletter.
4. Providing Expertise
Your knowledge of public health, planning, and prevention can be useful to and valued by your business partner.
An important part of working with a business is to acknowledge that you both have unique expertise in different topic areas. While this may be challenging at first, it can become a strength of the partnership as your relationship solidifies. An important part of all partnerships is valuing the perspectives your partners bring to the table - whether they are business sector partners or stakeholders and partners from other sectors you are familiar with. Likewise, your knowledge of public health, planning, and prevention can also be useful to and valued by your business partner.
For example, a business may have valuable insight into the consumer behavior of people in the community that could benefit from your promotional efforts while you may be able to share unique insight into behavior change theory that could improve the marketing efforts of local businesses.