01 Feb What Makes a Good Small Business Partner? Here are Three Reasons
Last month we honored several businesses that have been our partners for five years or more.
Our small business is not unique in its reliance on a host of business partners to provide essential services. From the day I launched MediPurpose (then known as SurgiLance) as a startup in Singapore in 1999, our business has been built around partners, consultants and other outsourced talent. This allows us to leverage expert resources, keep costs down and ensure a lean, efficient operation.
Like employees, there are all types of partners, ranging from bad to good. And whether through my choice or their own, only the good can pass the test of time, which in this case, means five years or more. Below are seven such companies or individuals, each of which provide a very important service to MediPurpose. But, other than their lengths of service, what is it that binds them to us?
In my opinion, these partners exhibit three traits of a good small business partner:
- Providing value by providing superior goods and services at fair prices and rates.
- Investing in relationships by mutual demonstration of trust, reliability and faith in its partners
- Communicating openly and honestly about issues as well as opportunities.
Troutman Sanders LLP (with MediPurpose since 2000)
When the Troutman Sanders law firm helped incorporate SurgiLance, Inc. in October 2000, they didn’t know what kind of customer we would be. It must have been somewhat disconcerting for them to find out the following year that a competitor was suing us for patent infringement!
It took four long years and more than a million dollars before we won the case. As I was bootstrapping the startup company, I certainly did not have the financial means to pay Troutman Sanders’ legal fees. They understood our situation and most importantly believed in what we were trying to do — and demonstrated that by being flexible with payment terms, allowing me to pay them as I grew the business.
Without their generosity and understanding, I would not have been able to contest the suit and would have had to close the company prematurely.
Additionally, they have always helped me to choose the most cost effective solutions to our medical device intellectual property needs, patiently educating me on the complexities of the IP landscape.
Whether for your own personal finances or for a corporation, there’s a tremendous amount of trust that must be cultivated in order for a relationship to blossom with one’s accountant — which is precisely what has occurred with MediPurpose and Accounting Partners.
Accounting Partners, Inc. (with MediPurpose since 2001)
Accounting Partners were first hired as our QuickBooks consultant, and then later hired to provide full accounting and tax services. More recently, their role has been expanded as an outsourced partner for our key customer service function.
All of it is because they have consistently served us well and have gained my trust. They have done so by developing relationships with us, helping with suggestions and contacts wherever they can. Furthermore, although we pay them on an hourly rate, they have never taken advantage of this arrangement and my bills are reasonable for the services they render.
Beth Craig (with MediPurpose since 2001)
The continuous and unimpeded movement of our medical products from our factories in Asia to our warehouse in Atlanta is absolutely essential for our survival in the competitive U.S. healthcare market. Yet there is always the possibility of our shipments being held up — especially with the heightened security after 9/11.
As our first and only customs broker, Beth (who is now with AIRSCHOTT) has cleared our medical products through U.S. customs and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the last 10 years.
We have had more than our fair share of problems, but Beth has always been responsive to our needs helping us solve problems with the shipper, carrier, customs or FDA. She has also provided valuable advice on customs and FDA procedures for the importation of medical products into the U.S.
Kuehne + Nagel, Inc. (with MediPurpose since 2004)
As a master distributor of medical products, MediPurpose needs a good logistics partner to receive, warehouse and ship our inventory and Kuehne + Nagel has been doing that for our SurgiLance safety lancet in North America since 2004.
Of course, there’s a reason why they do it and not somebody else. One is value. Before we switched to K+N, the cost of our warehousing services represented 1.7 percent of our sales. They reduced our cost to 1.4 percent in the following year, and to 1.25 percent in 2010!
Furthermore, along with lower costs, their handling error rate is consistently below 0.5%, which is very good performance.
Doug A. Stegall (with MediPurpose since 2005)
As our first and only financial auditor, Doug has always been very professional and has understood the limitations of small businesses like MediPurpose.
Prior to Kirschner & Associates, I worked with Doug at another firm. When he left it to join Kirschner, he did not contact me, being the professional that he is. However, when he was referred to us, he not only provided the same level of service to us as before, but for a lower and fixed cost.
Pender & Associates (with MediPurpose since 2005)
Along with the myriad of other challenges, providing a quality employee healthcare benefits plan is something that frustrates and sometimes cripples many small businesses.
As our first and only health insurance broker, Pender & Associates has delivered competitive quotes to us every year so that we can manage our healthcare insurance cost. Further, they have assisted us with filing claims and have helped us navigate the bureaucratic insurance maze that would sap the energy of any administrator!
AVision Business Solutions Pte Ltd (with MediPurpose since 2006)
In 2005, MediPurpose was paying a hefty six-figure fee in premiums for our commercial insurance. I was not sure that our insurance broker at that time was getting competitive rates for us. I therefore decided to invite two other U.S. brokers to provide more competitive quotes.
Although AVision Business Solutions had no experience with product liability insurance at that time, I asked whether they might be interested to give us a quote as I had known Angeline, the owner, as a trusted business person for many years. Their quote came in as the most professional, cost-effective and innovative proposal.
Over the years, they have continued to provide value to us and we now pay 65 percent less in commercial insurance premium than before our relationship with them.
Seven Good Partners for Three Great Reasons
When a business-to-business relationship works, it’s truly win-win. Of course, the provider business enjoys the revenues and can commit marketing and sales efforts to expanding their client list.
As the receiving business on the other side of that equation, we benefit because we also don’t need to commit resources to finding, researching, comparing and selecting new partners. As a small business, we simply can’t afford to frequently engage in activities that only move us horizontally instead of vertically. And as a successful small business, we truly appreciate those that help us make that claim!
What other attributes have you found in your partners that have delivered value, trust, reliability and more? Let us know in the comments.