Four years ago, I decided to take my marketing and diversity and inclusion consulting firm, Encounter Your Potential, full time. While I loved what I had created, I faced a challenge that many small business owners encounter: How do you generate a steady stream of customers and revenue?


Thankfully, I had a strong support network and friends with businesses who were experiencing the same challenge. In conversations about how we could grow our businesses, an idea emerged: Let’s cooperate and optimize our efforts.


Those conversations ultimately led me to form strategic partnerships with two public relations firms operated by girlfriends I’ve known for years. These partnerships allow us to refer clients to each other while collectively offering clients a broader array of services. I also established a third partnership with a human resources firm that I do fractional work for, which has led to me providing my services to various companies across different industries. Over time, these relationships have become more formalized in the form of revenue-sharing agreements, referral fees and subcontractor arrangements.


Ultimately, these partnerships have helped me boost my revenue stream and create advocates for my business. Better yet, they have been mutually beneficial to all businesses involved.


Formalizing relationships

While these partnership arrangements started rather informally, I’ve since taken steps to formalize them. This is important, as it ensures all partners agree to the terms of the partnership and helps avoid potential problems or conflicts down the road. And it doesn’t have to be complicated.


To formalize my established relationships, I used LegalZoom to customize an agreement, which a lawyer friend then reviewed. At its core, it is a friendly arrangement with structure to help drive revenues—and it’s a way I can work with other people without them being intimately involved in how I operate my business.


Revenue from my partnerships materializes in various ways, but most often through referral fees. Here’s an example: I added my partner Nickie’s services—corporate communications, blogger and influencer relations and crisis management—to my list of services. Meanwhile, Nickie added what I do best—personal branding, marketing and strategic consulting—to her list of services. When a client goes to Nickie for marketing, she directs the client to me. Once I have the client’s marketing needs prepared, Nickie then handles the PR aspects of the project. Every time those clients make a payment to Nickie, I get a 15% commission—and vice versa when I refer clients to her.


I have a similar arrangement with another partner, Nikkia, who recently referred a client to me for my personal branding services. With that one, I paid Nikkia a one-time referral fee amounting to 15% of the fee the referred client paid me.


I’ve also been able to grow my diversity, equity and inclusion consulting client reach as a subcontractor for the HR firm, which is a great source of incremental revenue and a terrific way to diversify my revenue stream.


Sharing experience

Just as important as the revenue bump is the shared space that partnering creates. As a business owner, I’m constantly thinking about new ideas for building my business—but I don’t always have someone to bounce them off of. With partners, I’m no longer making that journey alone. I like knowing that other people have my back and having that emotional connection with other entrepreneurs.


“Just as important as the revenue bump is the shared space that partnering creates.”


Thanks in part to these strategic relationships, my firm has doubled its revenue in each of the past three years. In 2021, I added one full-time employee and two consultants and paid myself a salary for the first time. With further growth expected in 2022, I may hire more employees.


As I’ve grown my business, I’ve seen that any interaction—whether an email, text or casual conversation—can lead to opportunity. Partnering with other businesses has taught me a huge lesson: No one creates anything amazing alone.

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