By Andy Bailey

Business is like dating. But instead of looking for love, you’re looking for partnerships that help grow your business.

This takes careful planning. Sure, you can grab the next Joe Schmoe off the street, tell him about your business and sell him your product, but taking advantage of any business that comes your way isn’t going to build your company long-term. In fact, it could sabotage it. It’s like marrying the first person who asks you on a date. That’s scary. When going into a business relationship, I recommend having a specific idea of the type of partnership you’re looking to form.

Most people have a mental checklist in their mind outlining the key qualities they’re looking for in a future companion. Business owners or managers should have similar list. I call it the “Dream 50 List.” It’s a list of 50 potential clients that have the qualities of your existing star clients and would therefore have a high likelihood of becoming a star client.

Here are four steps to making your list a reality:

  1. Identify – First you need to define exactly what you have to offer. Determine the unique benefit your business brings to clients. This is what your dream clients will pay to have.
  2. Analyze – Review your current client list. Which do you work well with, which do you not? Pick out those that you have a “spark” with. For example, one attribute may be, has x amount in annual revenue. The second may be, returns emails within 24 hours. This is also the time to take note of the qualities you don’t want in a client.
  3. Refine – Meet with your team and discuss the list. The team’s input is important because, after all, they’re likely the ones on the front line interacting with clients most. Narrow your list down to 10 characteristics.
  4. Match – Take a look at these 10 characteristics and research what types of businesses fit the mold. Maybe technology companies tend to have the annual revenue and number of employees you’re searching for, plus companies in the industry typically have a need for your service. Now we’re getting somewhere. But you still have to be more specific. Use your city’s chamber website to match actual businesses to yours. The companies that match your attribute list make up your Dream 50 List.

These steps are crucial to finding and making partnerships that “complete” you. Working with clients you mesh with improves the overall quality of your work and, in turn, your business.

Andy Bailey built and sold a multimillion dollar business and is now CEO and lead entrepreneur coach with business coaching firm Petra, and president of Nashville’s EO chapter. Reach him at

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