Sarah Kauss, founder and CEO of S'well
By Sarah Kauss
October 31, 2015

The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question “What do you look for in the ideal business partner?” is by Sarah Kauss, founder and CEO of S’well.

Building a business alone is tough. You’re often learning as you go, wearing multiple hats (some that fit, some that don’t) and switching gears only after making mistakes. The right partnerships can help you sidestep errors and streamline growth, often allowing you to do what you do best while delivering mutually beneficial outcomes. But what should you be looking for in a partnership?

From my experience, the best business partners teach you how to do business better. They come to the table with new business processes and proven strategies that can make you smarter and help grow business. They challenge you in unexpected ways — from how you work with vendors to how you organize your team –educating you each step of the process. My company, S’well, may look small to outsiders, but on the inside we’re incredibly organized and have been able to put new practices in place as a result of working with our partners. It is amazing how you can evolve by working with a company 10, 20, even 100 times your size.

See also: The important lesson every business founder still needs to learn

While were on the subject, let’s talk size. Ideal partners are giants — companies bigger than your own can provide optimization and scale through larger teams and existing partnerships. S’well started out small, but we went big when it came to partners, identifying well-known, international brands that were a smart fit for our product and our mission. Through our partnerships, we’ve been able to expand from New York, across the U.S., into Europe and, most recently, to Asia at a pace that we could not have managed alone.

In analyzing our partnerships, what I’ve found is that the best partners also compliment the services or product — from what they offer to how they do business. The most compatible partnerships are so subtle that your customers (and future customers) don’t question the pairing. It’s important to factor in visions, key pillars, and company missions when selecting a companion brand. We’ve been selective in this process and in the past have turned down potential brand partners that weren’t right, opting for organizations that have similar values has allowed us to remain authentic and grounded in our roots — always stay true to your brand.

At the end of the day, chemistry is key. You’ll be spending a lot of quality time together and you want to be in sync. So when you find a partner worth holding on to, keep them close and do what you can to keep the relationship fresh and exciting.

Read all responses to the Leadership Insider question: What do you look for in the ideal business partner?

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