Why Are Strategic Alliances Important to Your Small Business?

Global Edge defines a strategic alliance as a “collaborative agreement between two companies designed to achieve some strategic goal.” Traditionally, strategic alliances take place between larger companies and encompass formal arrangements such as “international licensing agreements, management contracts, and joint ventures” – but more and more small businesses are banding together in less formal ways to form strategic partnerships of their own. What are some of the benefits of forming small business strategic alliances? As a small business owner, how can you reach out to start conversations with potential allies and what should you look for in a strategic partner?Sharing ResourcesStrategic alliances offer an opportunity to pool and share resources. Many small businesses have to operate within a limited capital resource framework – both from an economic and intellectual point of view. Shortages of cash and certain types of skills make it difficult to build your small business.”Strategic alliances are extremely useful to small business owners – Many times small business owners have limited resources, one of these is man power; another is money,” says Ross Karp, Chapter President and Founder of My Networking Group Inc. in New York City. “By forming a strategic alliance you have partners to bounce ideas off of to help go after the clients that you are marketing to. Karp goes on to say that strategic alliances help small businesses develop or gain access to different skill sets. “We all have different skill sets that can compliment each other. By working to our strengths and having help with our weaknesses we are maximizing our time and energies.”Eric King, VP Business Services at Delta Community Credit Union in Atlanta, Georgia, also feels that the right type of strategic alliance can benefit a small business. “Strategic alliances can be highly beneficial – particularly if the partnerships are based on complimentary core competencies and cultures. The concept of cost sharing, especially in start up mode, can be a great balance sheet management tool.”Expanded Service OfferingSmall businesses can also use strategic alliances expand their service offering. Establishing strategic alliances with (like minded) vendors that share the same target market and provide products/services that compliment your brand can help your small business prosper. In the case of my small business, I have used strategic partnerships to offer clients access to a wide variety of marketing related service providers – becoming a conduit to “best of breed” talent for my clients has helped my small business develop a compelling value proposition.More BenefitsIn addition to sharing resources and expanded services, strategic alliances present small business with a number of other benefits. “Businesses that are close geographically (and share a target market) can combine resources to double their advertising efforts,” says Hilary Hamblin, an Independent Marketing and Advertising Professional in Florence, Alabama. “They can share database information and mail information to two or more mailing lists instead of one. Businesses can refer clients to other businesses in the alliance and even get discounts for bulk purchases on certain products.” Guy Timberlake, Chief Visionary and CEO for The American Small Business Coalition (The ASBC) in Washington, D.C., adds “gaining access to competitive intelligence” and access to prospective customers as two more possible benefits associated with forming small business strategic alliances.Marci Tomascak, an Independent Public Relations and Communications Professional in New York City, shares a story that highlights another benefit – the opportunity to engage in co-marketing programs. “I went into a well known bridal shop to pick up a catalogue for researching purposes. While I was there the “greeters” at the front of the store talked with me for a bit and we got chummy. Before I left the store, catalogue in hand, they had also given me an intuition razor. THAT was a great alliance where there is no competition. Not only does the bridal store have a great give away for prospective brides and bridal parties but the razor company gets new people to try out their product.”How to Get StartedHow do you start the process of creating strategic alliances? In my experience, the best way to reach out to potential strategic partners is to start networking. I like to research other small business in my immediate market area and try to find products or services that compliment my brand and provide solutions for my clients. As a next step, I usually send an email introduction outlining how our small businesses might benefit from working together. What really works for me is a casual meeting over a coffee – I find meeting people face to face in a non-business setting is a great way to quickly find out whether or not you can envision working together.Ross Karp agrees that forming alliances through networking works best. He also feels it’s important to understand your own target market and to establish what services (offered by potential allies) compliment your product/service offering. “For example, a real estate broker could team up with a mortgage broker, an attorney, insurance planners, etc.” says Karp.Things to Consider Prior to Forming an AllianceAn important component of any business arrangement, be it formal or casual, is the performance of due diligence. “Like the level of effort required to effectively and efficiently pursue new business, the same research and scrutiny should be leveraged when seeking to develop partnerships,” says Guy Timberlake of The ASBC. “Simply put, consider the business case for developing and utilizing such a relationship.”Eric King also suggests looking to see “how the partnership impacts the aggregate market share. Is there overlap in target markets? Is the overlap mutually beneficial? Does one part of the alliance stand to benefit more than the other?”

An Inside Look at the Importance of a Smile in Sales

If you’re in sales, then you’ve probably heard all sorts of advice, from “don’t oversell” to “focus on solving problems.” However, one of the best pieces of advice that many forget is to smile! After all, your smile is one of the first features people notice about you, and it plays an essential role in the first impression you make. Keep reading to learn all about the importance of a smile in sales (as well as how cosmetic dentistry can help!).

Smile: Your Sale Depends on It!

Knowing your product and knowing your audience are key in sales. However, you don’t get far if your client doesn’t trust you or believe you. That’s why it’s so important to make a good first impression! Here are a few ways a smile can help:

• Smiling is more powerful than you might think – One study found that smiling has the same effect on our brain as $25,000 in cash!

• Smiling communicates your state of mind – Smiling is a non-verbal cue that you are happy to be where you are, that you are confident in your product, and that you are ready and willing to help.

• Smiling creates a ripple effect of positivity – Have you ever seen a friend yawn and done the same? Or seen someone take a sip of water and immediately realized you’re thirsty? Thanks to the mirroring neurons in our brains, we naturally mimic the behavior of those around us.

But What If You Don’t Like Your Smile?

If you don’t like your smile, don’t worry – that’s where cosmetic dentistry comes in. Whether you’re struggling with misaligned, misshapen, cracked, or otherwise imperfect teeth, your smile goals aren’t out of reach. The first step? Scheduling an appointment with a skilled cosmetic dentist. For both my father and myself, providing high-quality, personalized, and judgment-free dentistry is a passion. There’s truly nothing better than seeing someone walk out of our office with a dazzling, confident smile! So, don’t wait to make your dream smile a reality – it could make all of the difference when it comes to your personal and professional life!

The Best Job In The World?

1999 was probably the worst year of my professional life. Unsatisfying office jobs followed by long periods of unemployment and claiming benefits. I’d also missed out on an opportunity to train as a Microsoft certified programmer because I was unable to find a placement. The dream of making my way into the world of employment had turned into an absolute nightmare, at times I felt like a total failure.

Towards the end of 1999 an opportunity arose for me to work in a casino. I’d always loved card games after seeing the glitz and glamour of casinos in James Bond movies. Dissatisfied with life in Northern Ireland, at the age of just 20, I packed a couple of suitcases and ended up going to the Isle of Man to train as a croupier (casino dealer) in January 2000. 18 months later I was working on my first cruise ship, and 18 months after that I was boarding the QE2 (the most famous ship of them all) to do a world cruise.

For a young man from a housing estate in Antrim, Northern Ireland this was beyond even my wildest dreams. On a ferry from Belfast to Liverpool in 1997, I’d once seen a pontoon table and croupier and dreamt what it may be to work as a casino dealer on the high seas.

Everything aboard the QE2 was as you would expect, starting with Captain Ron Warwick, who looked exactly what the captain of the QE2 should look like (Google the name if you don’t believe me). Passenger facing crew were immaculate in their appearance. I could probably have shaved with the crease on my pressed tuxedo shirts, and on a number of occassions when I had been sunburnt in port, I could feel the creases cutting into my tender skin as I dealt the cards that evening in the casino.

The great thing for croupiers on cruise ships is that they only work when the ship is in international waters, in port, the casino must close, and casino staff are free to do pretty much whatever they want. Casino staff have a cabin steward who cleans their cabin and takes away their dirty laundry and brings it back fresh each day. We did a 103 day world cruise which included stops in places like Hong Kong, Sydney, Cape Town, Hawaii, Mauritius, Nagasaki, Tahiti and Singapore to name a few. I managed to do some amazing excursions like diving in the great barrier reef, quad biking in the Namibian desert, and dining in all sorts of fine restaurants, trying delicacies like Springbok, Kangaroo, Crocodile and Kobe beef. We made stops in 5 continents, crossed the equator and even experienced living a Tuesday in consequetive days when we crossed the world timeline. Imagine that, you go to bed on Tuesday night, wake up the following morning and its Tuesday again, but this was far from groundhog day.

The role in the casino was not about taking passengers’ money like in a land-based casino, it was about providing them with fun and entertainment. The passengers were friendly and pleasant, many of them being extremely successful people (I understand the lowest cabin cost for a world cruise on the QE2 was about $50,000 in 2003). A lot of the passengers had never played in a casino and were fascinated to learn and experience the one onboard. Just getting to know some of these people was an experience in itself, and a large part of the role in the casino was simply to entertain them whilst they were in the casino.

There were also celebrity passengers. We would finish work and go to the crew/members bar where we would have guest entertainers like the late Des O’Connor and the magician, the late Paul Daniels down to have a drink. God bless them both.

Was my job the best job in the world? Maybe not for everyone, but it was beyond even my wildest dreams and the 6 month experience, as well as the amazing people I met will be something I treasure forever. I was very lucky to have lived this experience and will always be incredibly grateful for it.

Many years have passed since then and I’ve always missed the buzz of casinos which is how Fun 21 Casino Hire was created in 2021. My celebrities now are anyone who hires the No Money Fun Casino that I provide for parties and celebrations, and I aim to give the same experience that you would expect onboard the QE2.