Best Practices

Building the B.R.A.I.N.

Published Feb 05, 2016 by SourceLink Administrator

By: Daniel Oney

Third in a series on B.R.A.I.N. Operations - building the Resource Partner Network

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We want to improve connections because no one builds a business in isolation. Last time we introduce the client intake process. As our client-facing connector, it is the beginning of the referral process. Today we will explain the concept behind our partner network – the resources to whom we connect our clients.

Providing Business Development Resources

Business is dynamic with periods of change and relative stability. Founders and owners need the most help at those moments of change. These include going from concept to launch, adding their first employee, entering a new market or a crisis opportunity for a turn around. We started building our resource network by focusing on business development resources. The idea is that at each major transition, business success depends on tapping these four resources. They include: training, one-on-one coaching/counseling, connections and funding. These resources complement each other and permit the owner to address just about any business challenge. These four categories are helpful for mapping out community resources, but they really boil down to two: learning and cash.

Training, one-on-one mentoring and connections are all learning resources just learning delivered different ways. Training typically includes traditional workshops, small groups or guided self study. Our framework distinguished one-on-one learning methods from training. One-on-one methods include mentorships, coaching or what is called technical assistance which is personal instruction applied to the systems of a particular business. An example is a counselor who goes through the books and accounting system side by side with the owner to identify opportunities and fix problems.

Providing Connections

Connections to other owners, investors or consultants bring lots of learning opportunities. Connections are facilitated several ways including through business groups or chambers and networking events. Connecting to potential team member or employees can bring their learning directly into the business. Cultivating connection resources is mostly about discovering the useful events and promoting them to clients. We have an event calendar for that.

Under funding, we found several groups that specialize in lending to small and microbusinesses. These are in addition to bank loans which may also be guaranteed by the Small Business Administration. Funding education is also important and starts with basic financial literacy and a realistic awareness that most businesses are self-funded and bootstrapped from operating revenue. Only after building a track record are there good chances for loans or equity partners.

Building Relationships

We focus on building relationships with our partners. It begins when we discover a potential partner and ask for a meeting at their site. This helps us understand their capabilities, challenges and opportunities. Just as we have a brand promise to business clients, we make a promise to our partners that we will understand them well enough that we will bring them value-added client referrals and collaboration opportunities. Partners are also great at producing more partner leads. We ask them who they think should be in the network.

We secure written commitments with our partners that lay out our promise to them and the benefits of being in the network such as qualified client referrals, networking opportunities and support hosting events at Dallas libraries. We also ask our partners to help us strengthen the ecosystem by referring clients to the Dallas B.R.A.I.N. when their programs are not a good fit, promoting the network with reciprocal website links, social media engagement and event co-branding and collecting summary statistics so we can measure the impact of the ecosystem.

We build a detailed profile of each partner so clients can find the right resources through our online matching tool, Resource Navigator. It includes short and long descriptions, contact information, almost 100 service variables and their logo. Resource Navigator was developed by our national partner U.S. SourceLink.

The partner network is the product we are “selling” to small business clients. Its quality, resilience and responsiveness is what can make the difference between business success and wasted time and money. That is the motive behind our brand: the Dallas Business Resource and Information Network. We are not the B.R.A.I.N., the network is the brain. If you know about a quality training, counseling, networking or funding resource for small businesses or freelancers, let us know.

Daniel Oney is Business Ecosystem Manager with Dallas Economic Development. The Dallas B.R.A.I.N. is a proud affiliate of U.S.SourceLink.