Many well-meaning corporations desiring to partner with startups unintentionally drive startups away because their policies and practices run counter to the world of entrepreneurship. Here are three quick fixes to help ensure relationships are mutually beneficial and startups will be lining up to collaborate with your company.
1. Be realistic with requirements
Many startup founders launch companies as a direct result of the onerous, seemingly-endless requirements and bureaucracy that exist in some large organizations. While some paperwork is necessary, burying a potential startup partner in extraneous paperwork requests is a surefire way to send them looking for another partner.
Whether it's an RFP, requested company information before a preliminary meeting, or follow-up documents, be sure that everything you're asking for is necessary. Unlike big corporations, many startups do not have financial or legal council in-house, meaning every request to accountants and lawyers is billed à la carte. Don't ask for a reviewed financial statement if a copy of a tax return, bank statement or a P&L might be able to serve the same purpose.
2. Be flexible on your approach
Startups move at a very quick pace. A growing company could look totally different in March than it did in January. With that in mind, as you enter into partnerships with startups, be conscious of these changes. "Different" isn't necessarily "bad," so if a startup has a completely different way of doing things than your corporation is used to—for instance, if they insist on "walking meetings" instead of using a conference room—keep an open mind. You may find you love their new twists on old concepts! And if not, it's much easier to respectfully ask the startup to make a change going forward than making the same request before walking a mile in their shoes, as the saying goes.
3. Don't risk making a bad first impression
It only takes one wrong move for a startup founder to be completely turned off by a company. Think about it: Most people often associate their feelings about an entire company based on a single exchange with one employee—even if it's a junior level employee. That's why customers have so much ill-will toward companies who have bad customer-service reps — it doesn't matter how great the cable is, if it takes 12 hours to install and 45 minutes to get an answer on the phone, customers will gripe about the utility.
It's exactly the same in the business world. Startup founders will likely judge your company based not on the CEO's annual report or PR-friendly activities, but by the email he or she receives from whoever initiates the relationship. Plenty of VC companies and major organizations have blown would-be deals because an intern sent a form email and carelessly misspelled the name of the founder or company. Every member of your organization and every communication—both inbound and outbound—counts, because the recipient will be forming his or her opinion based on the exchange.
By eliminating these three common missteps, your company will be well-positioned to partner with innovative, fast-growing startups.
How can your company improve their partnerships with startups? Learn more about our Startup Engagement Program and how we help corporations work with startups around the world.
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