There comes a time in every services-oriented growth business when a tough decision has to be made: Do you invest in more people and training, or do you find a business partner with complementary skills?

The answer is different for each company, and comes down to trust and control. The most natural way many small businesses try to handle growth is by hiring good people and investing in training and education. And while that may work in most cases, many times solution providers don’t have the luxury of time to develop new talent, specifically in certain growth areas.

As mobile device management, telecommunications, virtualization, cloud computing and other emerging technology areas continue to penetrate industries and businesses of all sizes, solution providers need to make sure they have these areas covered for their existing customers as well as to expand into new customer sets. However, getting service professionals up and running with any confidence takes an enormous amount of time and investment—two things solution providers don’t necessarily have a lot of.

More and more the only option a solution provider has is to find a partner with specific skill sets to help service their customer needs. This can be a difficult pill for some solution providers to swallow because it often means giving up some account control and even customer face time.

Therefore, it is critical for solution providers to establish rules of engagement up front before partnering with any other professional services. Issues that need to be ironed out include:

  • Who is the first point of contact?
  • Who is in charge of billing?
  • How is the revenue being shared?
  • What is the specific job function and length of service?

Additionally, solution providers must ensure there is an "out clause" if the partner's service does not meet the standards required.

Any confusion on any of these issues can lead to exposure. And any confusion on the customer side will lead to a bad business experience.

Proving there is tremendous power in partnerships, Ingram Micro earlier this week said its VentureTech Network (VTN) community is recording higher revenues as a direct result of partnering more frequently in areas such as IT infrastructure, networking, security, services and storage. The year-over-year growth of the VTN community in 2013 is tracking at four times the IT industry average growth and generating greater revenues than last year, according to the company, proving partnerships work in this part of the industry.