Your business’s long-term success depends on how well you prepare for the future.

Every small business owner needs partnerships with reliable vendors and professionals who have specialized knowledge that the owner or employees don’t have. These partners could include accountants, attorneys, marketing professionals, tech consultants, and management consultants, as well as suppliers.

Cultivating these relationships not only benefits individual businesses, it also can enhance the economic development of the broader community. Like many diverse small business owners, you may have a strong commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion by supporting other diverse businesses and your community through partnerships. Yet identifying potential partners and nurturing those relationships can sometimes be a challenge.

Here are some tips to help you create and benefit from the mutual support of diverse business partnerships.


Finding diverse partners

Putting together a team of diverse partners can be especially difficult when there is a low representation of diverse professionals. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,1 diverse representation in professions such as law, accounting, or fundraising is scarce. Take these steps to find connections:

  1. Start your existing network — including other diverse business owners, professional colleagues, customers, friends, members of your faith community and other acquaintances — to look for possible partners among them. You can also ask for referrals.
  2. Try several tactics to expand your network. For instance, you can join area networking organizations that focus on diverse businesses, such as the local chapters of the U.S. Black Chambers, the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce. You’re likely to meet other business owners in a wide range of fields through these groups. You might also reach out to more diverse, industry-specific professional organizations for accountants, attorneys, marketing specialists, or IT specialists.
  3. LinkedIn and directories of diverse businesses, which are available from a variety of business and government organizations, are also sources to find diverse partners. Group members in your local area might be potential partners or be able to refer you to others.
  4. Consider connecting with fellow participants in the Minority Business Enterprise certification process, such as through the National Minority Supplier Development Council. Some of these business owners could become potential partners or link you to other diverse business owners.


Nurturing partner relationships

Once you’ve found potential candidates for the support roles you need to fill, you may need time to build relationships before you decide to partner with them. To get started, learn what trade and professional business groups your partners or potential partners are in and join. Volunteer for committee posts, help with planning events, or sign up to be a speaker. You’ll have a much better chance of working directly with partners or potential partners this way, which is a great way to deepen relationships.

  • Attend meetings and conferences of other organizations as a nonmember. You’ll find opportunities to start conversations with speakers, trade show vendors, and fellow attendees that could turn into helpful long-term connections. Also get involved in community activities where other diverse business owners will have a presence. Working side by side on a common cause is another effective way to build relationships.
  • Once established, be sure to nurture a partnership, perhaps by touring each other’s businesses, vetting or suggesting potential vendors, or helping out with a pitch or presentation Building relationships and partnerships is ongoing work. Just as any relationship requires constant care and attention, the same goes for partnerships. By sharing your expertise, others may share theirs.
  • Offer to help other business owners if you know of a person or resource they might need. Helping these partners is a great way to show you’re committed not just to your own success, but theirs as well. And always look for ways to repay any help you receive. Reciprocity is always appreciated — and it builds stronger connections.


Resources that can help

These organizations provide opportunities for identifying and networking with other diverse professional service providers and suppliers:

Business directories

Various area business organizations publish directories of diverse-owned businesses. For instance, the local chapters of diverse chambers of commerce may publish their own directories. Also check your local chapter of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and your local government’s economic development agency to see if they maintain lists of diverse businesses.

Industry-specific organizations

Diverse professional organizations in the industries where you need partners may be able to make referrals or allow you to attend meetings and other events where you can meet potential partners. An online search should turn up several national groups, plus information about any chapters close to you.

Members and resources of organizations like these can be valuable in building relationships with other diverse-owned businesses. As you grow your network, be prepared to pay back, as well as pay forward, the help you get.

The effort you spend to create strong diverse partnerships will not only position your own business for greater success but also help other diverse-owned businesses thrive, so they can provide jobs and other economic benefits to their communities.

1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Labor Force Statistics From the Current Population Survey”