The previous eight articles in this section explored the question: “Who is the Customer, and what is their single most compelling reason to buy now from you?” There is a very similar question that needs to be answered with as much thought as the question listed above. It regards business partners. Aligning your company with the correct business partners, at the correct time is crucial. Thirteen articles in this collection in Chapter 4 discuss business partners in detail. This article could have easily been placed in that chapter. However, considering the discussions in the previous eight articles in this section, the partner question, listed below, more logically belongs here.
“Who is your Ideal Business Partner, and what is their Single Most Compelling Reason to Jointly Work with You Now, and what can they Expect in Return?”
The eight distinct parts of this question are highlighted below.
“[WHO] is your [Ideal Business Partner], and what is their [Single] [Most Compelling Reason] to [Jointly Work with You] [Now], and what can they [Expect in Return]?
Below are some brief comments on each of the eight parts of the question. Since many of them follow the original “customer” question discussed in details in previous articles, the comments for the common elements will be brief.
- Who: Although many different individuals and groups within the partner’s organization may be involved, there needs to be one key person who will act as your “champion” and has enough authority to keep the discussions moving forward, overcoming the many obstacles raised by others in their organization.
- Ideal Business Partner: Many small companies immediately jump at the opportunity to become involved with a larger partner to help them “jump start” their operations. It is, however, prudent to step back and first determine who would be the most ideal business partner based on specific criteria. These characteristics should then be compared to the current, potential partner’s characteristics, and a conscious decision made accordingly. Once a partnering relationship is established, it may be difficult to pursue another one that is more relevant later. Partner “divorces” seldom leave either part unscathed.
- Single: There can be many reasons that a partnering relationship can be advantageous to both you and the potential partners. It is, however, important to understand what the single reason is that the partner is interested in working with you. Similarly, you need to clearly understand what your single reason is that makes the proposed arrangement so attractive.
- Most Compelling Reason: The benefit must involve a sound business factor that has a long term benefit to both parties rather than resolving a short term business issue. It must move past a “nice to have” relationship to a “need to have” fulfillment of some open issue for both parties. After the single, compelling reason is understood, a number of other secondary advantages for both parties will most likely emerge, none of which are probably important enough to justify the continuation of the long term relationship. Therefore, it is important to understand the long term sustainability of the compelling reason. For example, if you view the partnering relationship as a method of immediately expanding distribution until you can develop your own channel, the relationship could quickly sour as you begin becoming less dependent and, perhaps, in competition with your initial partner.
- Jointly Work With You: A common misconception when considering a partnering relationship is that it will lighten your company’s workload. The potential partner may have the same misconception. When involving a partner, many of the processes, procedures, and information about the product or service needs to be formalized so that individuals and departments within the partner’s organization can integrate the new requirements. These efforts will create significant challenges for both parties who each must devote resources to accommodate the other. Furthermore, if you are working with a larger, more well-established partner, expect them to ask you to conform to their methods and business processes.
- Now: In all probability, your potential partner is a much larger company with a proven track record and business processes in place. Furthermore, they probably have many different activities going on simultaneously while working with you. Frankly, their priority to finalize an arrangement with you will not be the same as yours. So, their expectations of “now” can be significantly later than yours. Additionally, with your smaller size, you are probably able to move much faster than they are in terms of implementing the new relationship. In most instances, large means slow, and therefore now can mean later.
- Expect in Return: Similar to the Compelling Reason portion of the question, both parties need to clearly understand and share what they expect in return from the relationship. Both party’s expectations for short term and the long term need to be openly discussed. Speculation can easily lead to disappointment.
In the excitement of envisioning a partnership, it is easy to focus only on the high potential upside and simply ignore the reality of some of the aspects of the relationship. Answering the multiple part question identified above will not guarantee success but will certainly help to identify many of the issues that both parties need to carefully consider.