Small and Medium Businesses and Community Partnerships

Your business does not have to be big to share the benefits of a successful community business partnership.

With a bit of research, some time, effort and commitment, your small or medium-sized business can find a community partner and partnership model that will benefit yourself, a community group and the area in which your business operates.

No business should rule itself out of developing a community business partnership just because it is not a big national or multi-national company. In fact, the challenges of operating your small or medium-sized businesses have probably provided you with numerous financial, people and organisational skills which could contribute to a great community-business partnership.

You can start by devoting some time and effort to finding a prospective community partner and a suitable community business partnership model. There are several steps you can work through to do this:
  • BE HONEST with yourself:
    • Ask yourself: "What can my small or medium-sized business realistically offer a partnership without being overburdened?''
    • Examine what skills, capabilities and benefits your business has and how they could be used to develop a successful community-business partnership model.
  • EVALUATE what you, your staff and your business want from a partnership with a community group.
  • LOOK at what sort of community group would be suitable to develop a partnership with and ensure their values and outlook are in harmony with your business.
    • An idea is to consider a partnership with a community group from a complementary sector to your business - for example, a nursery and an environmental group, or a sportswear store and a football club.
  • TALK with your staff about their thoughts on developing a partnership.
    • It is vital they are keen to be involved, as, without unity and their enthusiasm for a partnership it is not likely to succeed.
    • They may also have suggestions for a prospective community partner for your business, and feelings on possible partnership models, particularly if the model directly involves them.

The Right Model

A full list of partnership models is featured in the Help Sheet Ways To Be Involved available at the Community Business Partnerships Brokerage Service section of the Our Community website.

However, some community-business partnership models may be better suited to small or medium-sized businesses, given their partnership capabilities and needs.
  • In-kind donation of goods or services.
  • Pro-bono arrangements.
  • Volunteerism.
  • Sponsorship.
  • Sharing or donation of premises or infrastructure.

Working Together - Collaborative Action

If you are still unsure that your business has the resources, money or time to make a community-business partnership a success, there is another way of helping out - through collaborative action.

Collaborative action sees a number of organisations from one sector - particularly business - join together to form a partnership with a group or groups in another sector.

This type of partnership allows small businesses who would not be able to participate in a community-business partnership by themselves to do so - and achieve goals for themselves and their area they would not be able to achieve in isolation.

More information about collaborative action is contained in the Help Sheet Never too Small - the Concept of Collaborative Action available at the partnerships Brokerage Service section of the Our Community website. But some simple steps to developing a collaborative action include:
  • TALK to business around you.
    • Chat with the businesses in your shopping strip, centre or area. Maybe they have been already approached for a collaborative action, or are already thinking of one. They might even have one up and running which you could join.
  • CONSULT your local Chamber of Commerce or council.
    • Another option can be to consult your local Chamber of Commerce or council, as they might be able to tell you if there is an existing collaborative action plan you can join.
  • HAVE a project in mind.
    • Have a project, activity or aim in mind that is realistic, interesting and would benefit businesses, community group/s and the wider neighbourhood.
  • MEET and form a committee with interested businesses.
    • If there is support for a collaborative action project, set up a meeting with interested businesses, and think about establishing a committee to drive the project. If all goes well, organise a meeting with the community group or groups you wish to partner for the project to develop a formal partnership plan.
  • BE realistic.
    • It is no use overburdening not only your business, but a group of businesses, with unrealistic or unachievable partnership aims. An option is to start with something on the smaller side and work up to larger projects.
  • BE up front with community groups.
    • Be honest when approaching a community group about what your businesses can offer. And remember - there is always room for negotiation once discussions begin.