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Partnerships can bring in big business

By Marty Minchin
Correspondent

Q: Why should a small business partner with a bigger company to land work?

Ask the Experts spoke with two local small business leaders about the advantages of a well-timed partnership.

Steve Rutherford, owner of Charlotte-based Rutherford Communications, which offers video production and digital signage solutions, said partnerships can bring widespread benefits. He regularly works with larger businesses on projects.

“There is a lot of gain across the board, financially and what you learn along the way,” he said. “There’s no way you’re going to pick this kind of thing up doing your day-to-day business stuff.

For small businesses looking to expand their scope, adding employees or equipment can be very expensive.

“To grow your business, you have to have the capacity,” Rutherford said. “How do you create capacity? Partner with other people.”

An example of such a collaboration was the opening of the Mint Museum’s new uptown location in 2010. Total Event Production, a Charlotte company with 12 employees, partnered with an event planner to produce an opening based on what the museum wanted to showcase.

“We historically don’t do event design from start to finish,” said Jim Ablard, director of business development for Total Event Production. “(The event planner) stepped in between client and us to figure out what the client wanted to do.”

Total Event Production uses technology and staging to create an event’s environment and keep an audience engaged. At the Mint Museum opening, Total Event Production did everything from setting up audio equipment for two musicians who performed at the event to figuring out how to resize and project images onto the outside of the building.

“It came off as they envisioned,” Ablard said.

Collaboration can be extremely beneficial if a company understands its clients’ needs well enough to know that help from another company would produce the best results.

“Different companies have different strengths, and by collaborating with different companies, everyone can bring the best possible end product to the client.”

Hesitation to enter into a new partnership can be natural, especially for a small company working with a larger one. Working together can expose your client relationships, services and capabilities to the other company.

Rutherford suggests that small companies fully investigate a proposed project and what would be expected of them before signing on to work with a larger company. Knowing the value of what you provide will help you get a fair piece of the partnership benefits, including pay for the project.

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