Business partner

A business partner is a commercial entity with which another commercial entity has some form of alliance. This relationship may be a contractual, exclusive bond in which both entities commit not to ally with third parties. Alternatively, it may be a very loose arrangement designed largely to impress customers and competitors with the size of the network the business partners belong to.

Partnership formation

A business partner or alliance can be crucial for businesses. However, businesses can not choose business partners, called business mating, in any way they want. In many instances, the potential partner might not be interested in forming a business relationship. It is important that both sides of the agreement complement each other and have some common ground, for example in management style, mindset, and technology. If, for example, management style would be too different between the firms, then a partnership could be problematic. Kask and Linton investigate under what conditions business mating takes place for startup firms seeking business partners.


The meaning of the term is quite different from that implied in partnership, and it is because of the potential for confusion between the two that widespread use of 'business partner' has been discouraged at times in the past.
A business partner can be:
  1. A supplier
  2. A customer
  3. A channel intermediary, or
  4. A vendor of complementary offerings
This is a wider definition than a business alliance.
A business partner is becoming more common in HR departments as it represents the employees position, ideally seeing the HR issues from the employers and employees point of view. Small and medium business are often turning to external HR Business Partners to solve any HR disputes.


One example of a business partnership is the "Agility Alliance" originated by Electronic Data Systems. Members of this IT-focused alliance include Microsoft, Oracle Corporation, Sun Microsystems and SAP. This highlights two problems with multi-party partnerships:
Business partner search or business matchmaking is the process/service of finding buyers/customers, distributors, licensees, and/or other business partners. This can be provided as a paid service by a commercial organization, or as a free service by the commercial section of a country's embassy/consulate or an association of businesses in a particular area.
Customarily, commercial consideration of this service is a one time fee. The fee for this service depends on the business domain, the volume of business of both partners that will end up in a partnership relation as the end result of this service, etc.
In a specific example of a specific domain this fee is found between EUR 1800~2200 depending on the tasks required from the business matchmaker.

Managing relationships with business partners

The collaborative relationships with business partners are oftentimes prone to certain inefficiencies, which are represented by misalignments of either incentives or efforts between the partners. Business actors thus employ various approaches to manage the business relationships and facilitate both cooperation and coordination. Two mostly used mechanisms are legal contracts and social norms.