Wanted: One Committed Strategic Partner
Partnering has proven itself one of the most powerful business tools for dealing with fast changing markets, technologies and customers. As the global economy speeds up, partnering is becoming the weapon of choice for today’s successful competitors.Curtis E. Sahakian
The paradigm of our time is that strategic partnerships are no longer a nicety, they are becoming a necessity and may ultimately decide the fate of big and small businesses alike.
According to Rick Suarez, there are three reasons why you would want a strategic partnership.
- To grow the business –
- You are expanding your footprint. So, you look for partners in that additional territory to help you get up and running quickly.
- You are expanding your product offering. So, you look for niche players in that space that have a proven track record.
- Your growth is stretching your financial capabilities such that you have difficulty meeting payroll or securing the capital needed to fuel the growth. So, you look for partners that can have a similar DNA, where they understand and appreciate your business and fuel your growth without trying to control you.
- You can also partner with suppliers that have a distribution footprint that matches your expansion territories and you benefit from your growing scale and quick access to needed supplies.
- To improve profitability – As the business grows so do your indirect and fixed costs. As your relationship with existing customers tenures, so does the need to cut your pricing to help your customer stay competitive. Here, you look for strategic partnerships that target your operational improvement areas.
- You partner with IT firms that can help you with system automation, especially with mature lines of business. You look for repetitive processes and look to automate them.
- You partner with suppliers of your material. You look for opportunities to concentrate your supply spend. This concentration affords you buying power that translates into lower pricing, annual rebates and sourcing guarantees.
- You look for start-ups that can give you better pricing and benefit from your selling power (volume).
- To protect the business – Always being aware of competitive threats is key to your longevity as a business. Focusing on your customer needs will help you gain insight into how you need to adjust your business model to stay competitive.
- You partner with suppliers of services that your customer is relying on, but you may not want to tool up for. You seek these partnerships to protect what you have. Those providing the added services can easily grow into your space if the customer is seeking a source to deal with. Better you provide it, even at lower profits, than allow other entrants into your space.
- The difference between winning and losing can come down to who owns the supply lines to your material resources. Secure relationships with key suppliers may make the difference between being able to perform the work or not.
- Partnering with training suppliers and sourcing suppliers can also help in your need to retain and procure the better talent.
If you are looking to strategically partner and you have a business case to justify it, I would highly recommend creating a help wanted statement and clearly define what you are looking for in a strategic partner and do not stop until you find the perfect match.
As a small business owner, my help wanted statement would look like this:
Wanted: One committed strategic partner
One strategic partner that can match the time and energy I am willing to invest in the relationship.
One supportive strategic partner that will have my back when the unexpected happens.
One morale boosting strategic partner that will look for the opportunity in the setbacks.
One rewarding strategic partner that strives for a mutually beneficial relationship and will not settle for win/lose scenarios even when they are the winner.
One collaborative strategic partner that is willing to co-labor together to solve problems that neither one of us can solve on our own.
One transparent strategic partner that reveals possible conflicts of interest before they are asked for, is clear and forthcoming about why they entered into the partnership and equally clear and forthcoming about what they expect from the partnership.
One protective strategic partner that will not throw me under the bus when the going gets tough.
One challenging strategic partner that will encourage me to get outside my comfort zone and take reasonable risk to achieve mutually beneficial goals.
One innovative strategic partner that challenges the status quo, looks to solve tomorrow’s problems today, and continually asks how can we do it better? Cheaper? Faster?
One ethical strategic partner that shares my belief in the need for a competency level that develops best in class capabilities that deliver results, a character that sets the standard in excellence in both intent and integrity, and a sense of community (demonstrated through interpersonal skills and interactions with the team and the community at large) that strives to make a difference.
Two are truly better than one, until the moment they are not. If you do the hard work beforehand and identify a strategic partner (1) who aligns with your mission, vision and values, (2) who has strengths where you are weak, and (3) both teams can successfully develop trust such that when there is a breakdown in what is expected and what is delivered, each looks to resolve the issues quickly without tearing the other apart together, that strategic partnership has the potential to move mountains.
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