Rasheed Ogunlaru – Coach on the Couch – May

Dear Rasheed,

I would appreciate your advise.

I have a business making natural hair products. I made my first products in my kitchen eight years ago and things have been going well,  but for the last year or so I have been looking for an opportunity to step up the brand.

Recently, a huge American hair brand approached me to partner on a project. Initially I was very excited and said yes straight away. If all goes well it could be great for my business, but I am worried about being swallowed up by the power of the bigger brand as they have huge resources, whereas there are just two of us in the business and limited budgets for marketing.

Do you have any advice on how I ensure that my brand is heard just as loudly as my US friends, without alienating them.

Many thanks,  Adenike


Dear Adenike,

Thanks for writing in on such an important topic.

First of all I’d like to say, hugely well done on all you’ve already achieved. Starting and running a successful product business from scratch, is not an easy feat.

I invite you to step back and ask yourself a few key questions before progressing (be very specific with the answers and write them down).

  • What do you want to achieve in life and business from here on?
  • How would you like to see your business grow (what scale, size, staff, sales, structure, ethos, values, brand impact etc)
  • In an ideal world would you like any kind of relationship, association or partnership with any other brands and if so what type?
  • What type of ownership and control do you want and not want in regard to your business?
  • What type of businesses and individuals a) do and b) don’t you want to do business with in terms of type, style, size, values, ethics, brand, mission, impact, marketplace?
  • What do you know about the firm? What draws them to yours?

There may also be a whole range of other questions you have been asking yourself, so write them down. Once you have your answers, you need to balance the approach you’ve had by your answers, to see what kind of fit the company that have approached you make.

In any potential relationship in which we are shown attention, intention, and interest, it is of course flattering, and where there is flattery and attention there is the risk we can be wooed easily. You must ensure that your head and heart are both confident if and as you proceed.

In potential business, the stakes can be high, so it’s important to let things happen ‘organically’ and ensure that they are apt for your business. Don’t feel you need to rush in because they are larger and well established.  In many ways this is all the more reason to take care that you are right for each other, with a slow courtship. Marriage is rarely wise before a first date: test the water before any commitment. A joint promotion, a one-off event, signposting each others products. Get to know each other  – including their key players and research / get to know the company to see if you share the same vision, values and ethics.

If things get more serious and if they or you are seeking closer links, then I recommend getting expert legal advice and to draw up agreements. You may also need business advice from an expert in your sector or relevant to the logistics / specifics being explored.

Ensure you start out with your own specific list of what you want the business to look like – including the brand elements you highlighted. If you also have other seasoned and wise contacts and friends in business and corporate life that will be wise counsel or who have experienced this situation, then seek out their thoughts.  They will have your best interests at heart. But it’s your business and you’ll have to make the decision.

Finally, it’s worth adding if you do going down a formal route it can be useful to have initial short-term ‘test’ term – (which is why many organisations have a probationary 3 months period)  and it can be worth having terms in which you can go your own separate ways if need be.

I wish you all the best. It’s best to walk into any conversation or connection with a warm heart, but also with a sharp, shrewd and measured mind. These things combined will help you make the right decisions for you.

Best wishes, Rasheed

PS. If you want to sharpen up on all these things, then come along to Rasheed’s  Networking for Success event at the British Library

Do you have a question for Rasheed? Email him here

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