Guest Blog: Circle The Wagons by Shelley Smith


Well of course – who isn’t? It is time to circle the wagons. Let’s unite together to serve our common interests, our clients.

There are many ways to grow your business whether you are a sole-proprietor, small business owner, midsize or even large organization. The world is your oyster if you allow it to be. As many of you know, the first book I wrote was called THE CONNECTION, and one chapter, in particular, is dedicated to strategic partners and business alliances. As we move into another glorious year, let’s discuss further.


You can do this via written agreements, but I am talking more about simplicity. You know the ole school, handshakes with integrity and honesty. The wagons were not put into a circle after they signed a document, they did it as it was the right thing to do.

Oh, come on, yes, that still exists.


Step 1

Think of the type of businesses that come up in conversations with your clients and or prospects. Make a list of those trades. First and foremost think of the needs of your clients. How can you be a great resource to them with their needs outside of your expertise?

Step 2

Match the trades from step one with the people you know. I stresssssssssssss the word know. As in already know, vetted, trust and in alliance with your mission, vision, values and so forth. You are about to build a strong bond with them so make sure the fit is right on all sides. Now I am not suggesting you do a background check but do your homework and ensure you are comfortable referring them.

Step 3

Set up a meeting between the two of you to discuss doing business together as referrals and remaining separate organizations.  Stay in your lanes.

Step 4

Know their business enough to understand what your ears need to hear, to do a referral over to them. What are the triggers your client or prospect might say that you can say – hey I know someone who does that or who can help with that XYZ.

Step 5

Set boundaries with those unwritten strategic alliances. Meaning do you quote any of their information and they yours? Do they get a commission from you? Do they get a discount when selling your services with theirs? What is your agreement? Be clear.

Step 6

Make it happen naturally, not forced. I am not suggesting you all become sales managers for every trade out there or be able to recommend every business for all of your clients. However, I am saying know who and what you are comfortable being a resource.

Step 7

Refine and keep your eyes open. It’s crazy how in a perfect world we can actually all refer one another but we get locked and closed minded and protective at times. So don’t be that person. Be open. Be authentic. Do as you say and say as you do.


Due to my type of business and board business consulting, I have lots of opportunities to refer and be referred. Over the years I have expanded my reach on all sides because I do refer and get referred. There aren’t too many meetings with existing clients or new prospects that another person and companies name is not referred to them. The opportunities to connect are all around us.

I have the pleasure of working with a ton of great local companies and individuals. Some may say they overlap, but the reality is their services may sound the same on the surface, but they are different with their expertise, scope of work and best types of clients that they serve.

A few of my alliances include Courtney Buzzell, owner of Proximo Marketing Strategies. In this case, I have done business directly with Courtney for my business, and she is a client, AND we both refer to one another often. We also do proposals that include each of us as an automatic arm in the same proposal.  A recent example she included my services to kick off a new client of hers. I came in and helped them establish and clarify their perfect client Avatars and pricing, and she took it from there to build their website, SEO and digital strategies.  Great match!

The following limited list is more examples of those I have built business relationships with as resources, alliances, clients, referrals and more.

Mark Tunstall, Field Learning Consultant ADP

Melinda Evans, Co-owner of Designs by ME

Colin Taylor, Owner Thoughtlead Digital

Oscar Alvarez, Owner of Pathway Financial Planning

Nany Gonzalez, Owner of MOR Consulting

DeAnna Kimrey, Commerical Banker BayPort Credit Union

Timorah Beales, Owner of Timorah Beales Photography

Anne-Lise Gere, Owner of Gere Consulting

Moreover, the list goes on!


Step 8

Get started now on Steps 1-7 and make 2017 your best year ever.

Shelley D. Smith is the owner of Premier Rapport. Her business consulting firm serves companies of all sizes with overall leadership, executive coaching, organizational design and development, talent development, behavioral assessments, including The Predictive Index, and much more. Shelley is the Current Past President of Peninsula Women’s Network, the longest continuously operating women’s network in Virginia. She is an active member of Peninsula SHRM, as well as a board member and program chair. She is involved with many other nonprofit organizations in her community, including the Boys and Girls Club. A happily married mother of three, she is also an active member in her church. Shelley and her family reside in Newport News, Virginia.