I was meeting with a Silicon Alley entrepreneur, talking with him about options for extending his company’s reach by partnering with other businesses that target his same audience.
He’d had a short-term partnership with Company A but the results had been lackluster. The entrepreneur had come away from the experience disappointed, and was about to conclude that not only Company A but also Company A’s entire genre was the wrong place to be seeking partnerships.
So when I asked whether he’d considered a different company — same kind of product, same customer group, just a different company — he replied “Why would Company B be any different?”
“Because Company B has the love, and Company A does not. They never will.”
My answer popped right out without me even thinking (as my answers are wont to do) but I knew I was right. There is something about Company B, something deep in their core, that makes them profoundly different from Company A and thus better potential partners for this entrepreneur’s business.
Having “the love”?
I knew when I said that Company B had ‘the love’ that I’d have to explain what I really meant. Which was hard.
(“Having the love” sounds like slang, right? But the term is really a placeholder to label something we don’t have words for right now.)
As I made myself explain out loud, I found myself describing Company B as warmer, more generous in their relationships, more genuine in their communication.
Company B would care about this entrepreneur’s business — not because it would bring Company B more profits or more customers, but because Company B would support the start-up’s larger vision.
We might use another bit of slang and say that Company B could grok what the start-up was trying to do. Or, we could say that Company B was committed to boosting whoever it worked with.
Not every successful business “has the love”.
I know the founders of both Company A and Company B, and have been watching them build their businesses over the past 3 years or so. They are both good companies, with solid business models and promising growth curves. The leadership teams of both organizations are nice people. They are hard working, focused, disciplined, and creative. Their products are good and their customers are satisfied.
But Company B’s team approaches their work with a different mindset. They care about each other, about their users, and about their partners in a way that Company A’s team does not.
Yes, Company A will send out samples of your product, or introduce you to a potential investor, or invite you to an exclusive networking event, but they are not really out there to care about somebody else’s business the way that they care about theirs. They aren’t a bad company; they just aren’t very boosty.
At Company B, the feeling is different. They’ll help you with a problem with no particular expectation of return. They will send you a chunk of code to put the polish on that website function you just haven’t gotten right. They will talk about your company when they’re being interviewed by TechCrunch. They will share the love.
How does a company “share the love”?
Earlier this year I’d talked with one of the founders of Company B about how she’d been handling endless requests from other businesses who wanted her company to promote theirs somehow.
She explained that she focused on opportunities where both parties and their customers could benefit from the connection. (The win-win-win approach.) The benefits could be subtle (e.g., reinforcing both brands’ personalities) or more specific (filling a gap in the businesses’ offerings) but rich value had to flow in many directions.
Company B’s founder went a little further. She explained she not only declined opportunities where she didn’t see that kind of (win-win-win) connection, she also declined opportunities where she didn’t feel a similar spirit from the potential partner company.
“We just don’t need to work with companies that aren’t going to be there for us,” she explained. “If they seem arrogant, or cutthroat, or super-competitive, or selfish, I move away from them.”
She was sure she probably missed some opportunities to grow Company B’s customer base and revenue, but she held out for partnerships that could grow the whole business – meeting the customer needs, selling the product, inspiring the employees, and nurturing the larger community that makes their business possible.
Sharing the Love and Finding Your Boost Community
Company B wants to work with business partners that share their boost attitude. Lucky for Company B, there are many businesses like this in Silicon Alley.
“There was a desire among everyone who was in it (Silicon Alley) to see everyone else succeed.”
Wilson went on to note that, these days, this attitude no longer defines the entire digital community. However, there are many companies keeping this attitude alive.
Yes, we now have digital tech businesses that are solely focused on revenue, and less on a broader definition of value creation. Not only are their products less and less about true, creative disruption, but their approach to business relationships is also less generous.
That’s disappointing, maybe even inevitable. It doesn’t have to limit the goals that tech entrepreneurs set for their companies.
Choosing to Build Your Boost (e)conomy
The startup entrepreneur and his business have a choice. They get to choose which businesses they partner with, and they can choose to build relationships with businesses where they can boost each other.
Turns out that in most cases, there is more than one business in any particular vertical or market segment or offering any particular tool or service. The entrepreneur can look out into the business community and sort opportunities into two groups: those that share the love, and those that don’t.
Businesses that have the love will share it with you.
They will approach their business relationships with questions like:
- “How can we help you?”
- “How can we help each other?”
- “How can we build a context for success and for creating value that goes beyond what money we can earn together?”
The startup entrepreneur, his business, and YOU have a choice. YOU get to choose which businesses you partner with, which businesses you let into your own economy, and which businesses you will boost.
And with this in mind, the entrepreneur promised to email the team at Company B to set up a meeting. My work was done. And yours?