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Growing Business in Down Economy

In a tough economy, growing your business doesn’t have to involve costly new hires or expensive acquisitions. Instead, teaming up with another small business might be your best solution.

Successful teaming relationships can help you gain experience, offer a more comprehensive service, or take on bigger contracts.

Earlie Butler, founder and CEO of Document Integration Technologies, a West Orange, N.J.-based technology solution business, teams with other companies to reach a broader client base.

Over time, he’s learned how to choose the right partners and communicate effectively. “Just like anything else, some relationships are going to very good and productive, some not so, and others just fall apart completely,” he says.

If you want to try teaming with another small business, here are six tips to ensure a successful relationship:

# Be honest about your weaknesses. Before you enter a teaming relationship, assess your strengths and weaknesses. “When you’re teaming, you’re looking for someone who will be right next to you,” says Michelle Thompson-Dolberry, an advisor on small business growth for American Express OPEN. “You have to be open about what you really bring to the table,” she says. Ideally, you’ll complement each other’s weaknesses.

Balance Your Relationship using This Tips

As an entrepreneur, strong relationships open doors and empower you to succeed. When you are getting started, you’re constantly calling on your network for help. To do that successfully without straining the ties, you need to make sure that you are giving as much as you receive.

As you work hard to make connections that will help your business grow, you can unwittingly slide into selfish relationships, often with the best of intentions. Others will rarely tell you directly if you’re taking more than you’re giving, so you need to watch for signs.

The most common sign is avoidance. “It can be difficult to tell someone that they expect more than they give, so [people will make] excuses about being too busy to avoid a potential conflict,” says Marilyn Belleghem, an Ontario-based business relationship consultant. If people stop returning your messages or start saying they’re too busy for you, that change can indicate that they’re not benefiting from the relationship.

More subtly, you might sense that you’re struggling to make a connection or you’re doing all the talking. Or, you might draw a blank when you ask yourself what others need or what you’ve done

Create a Powerful Network Tips

nfluencers — those well-connected, knowledgeable voices to which others listen and respond — are coveted connections. They can provide insight, recommendations, introductions and opportunities.

Most people already know who the influencers are in their industries, says attorney and entrepreneur Steven Babitsky, co-author of The Street Smart MBA: 10 Proven Strategies for Driving Business Success (Apress, 2012). They’re often popular authors, speakers, bloggers, columnists or successful businesspeople. Babitsky has an effective formula for connecting with many of them. Here are his six steps to connecting with influencers in your industry.

# Get in touch
Babitsky likes to reach out via phone or email instead of social media because it’s more personal, he says. However, take your lead from the influencer’s cues. If he or she is active on Twitter or carries on online conversations on his or her blog, that might be a good way to get in touch, too.

# Keep in touch
Maintain a database of contacts that also includes searchable keywords related to interests. That way, if you come across an article or information related to some of your contacts’ interests, you can easily send it along, keeping you relevant and memorable.