What Does Being a “Partner” Mean in Business?

I work in a world where most of the time I’m working for free.

I run a staffing firm. By its nature, staffing is working for free until someone thinks you have something valuable enough to pay for (a great candidate). The trick to being really good at staffing is to try and work for free as little as possible.

I also write and speak in the TA and HR space. I don’t call myself an “Analyst”, maybe I should because all my analyst friends do a lot less free work than I do! I partner with some vendors to do some work and most of those vendors make sure it’s equally beneficial for both of us. I’m pretty open to how something can be beneficial to me.

Many times I’ll get asked for a “favor”. Favor is another name for “free work”.

Those who asked for a favor are always very appreciative of the “Partnership”.

I don’t think of this as a partnership. A partnership is where both sides feel valued. Me giving you something for free isn’t a partnership. It’s me giving you something for free, and you giving me nothing in return.

I get the game. Many times I’m giving something away for free in hopes that my “partnership” will lead to something that is beneficial to me. It’s a type of “loss-leader”. I give you something now, and maybe in the future, you’ll want to give me something in return.

This works about 20% of the time in my world. Not very good odds, but I’m a sucker for someone asking me for help. It’s actually a great sales strategy that can be used by every profession. By nature, we are suckers for anyone asking for help. Most people want to help people who ask for help.

(Sidetrack note) – This works really well in recruiting. When you reach out to an employee for a referral, don’t ask for a referral. Ask for “help”! “Hey, Mary, it’s Tim in TA, I need your help!” “Tim! For sure, what can I help you with!?” Then you go into actually asking for a referral! You’ll be amazed at how this works, because they’ve already said they’ll help you!

In the real world of work, a partnership might not be that different from what my “partnerships” look like.

The biggest difference is while you also don’t want to “work for free”, doing something for nothing. Many times we are getting paid to do a job where we’ll do something for a lot of people, and we feel we won’t get anything in return. But that is the wrong way to think about it. Because you should be getting something in every partnership!

If you’re a partner with a hiring manager that manager should be giving you stuff back in return. Timely feedback, return calls, help reaching out to their network, providing praise and feedback up the chain that will help you, etc. If you are getting nothing, you are not in a partnership, you’re in a one-way relationship. Don’t kid yourself about being a partner!

Partners in business help each other, support each other, and respect each other. Don’t call yourself a partner if you’re aren’t willing or able to help out the other side of that partnership.




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