While consulting on some recent procurement transformations, I began to take notice that many companies seem to forget what it means to be a good business partner. Do we, as businesses, just not want to take the time to invest in real relationships anymore? I have seen many “okay” partnerships, lots of “poor” ones, but sadly few really “great” ones. There are some clear lines to be drawn between how to partner correctly, but it cannot be done without the right leadership and effort. Before we delve into some guidelines for a good business partner, let’s first take a step back to see what kind of partner a company might be today.
To start with, let’s define business partnering in the traditional sense. Taken in parts from our friends at Wikipedia:
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.
A business partner can be:
• A supplier
• A customer
• A channel intermediary (such as an agent or reseller), or
• A vendor of complementary offerings
I think we can deliver this perspective simply by putting business partners into two categories: givers and takers. First, there are the “givers”. These are proactive business managers that genuinely desire the opportunities and benefits that a collaborative enterprise may offer. This relationship is sought out and smartly evaluated for serious consideration resulting in formidable mutual collaboration with a business partner company.
To make the relationship meaningful, the other business partner you are seeking to develop an alliance with must also be a “giver.” They must have a genuine interest in learning more about your business, it’s offerings, reputation and how those attributes might better their position as well. This is the ideal scenario, where the two “givers” begin to work symbiotically to form an alliance that embodies effort, communication and understanding. If this approach is nurtured, a long-term, reciprocal and profitable partnership will endure.
Of course, it’s perfectly okay to have more than one business partner and there shouldn’t be a perception in any way that a business partnership is meant to be exclusive. However, to achieve true-partnering, there should be a certain level of transparency, honesty and respect upheld throughout the duration of the relationship. Simply said, a good partnership takes effort.
When we feel the communication weakening or the level of collaboration diminishing, it’s here where we sometimes start to feel the presence of “takers” in business partnering. Sometimes they were “givers” in disguise, or perhaps they had no true intentions of putting in any effort from the start or maybe they didn’t deliver internal mechanisms or formality into the effort for partnership.
Enter the “takers.” That is to say, the “takers” begin to, over time, show signs of alternative motives or insincere commitment. I think it’s fair to say that there are many situations where it becomes the “what are you doing for me” or the “how much are you worth” mentality. Takers tend to have a single sided mind-set of what are “they” bringing to the table and fail to look at how can “I“ elevate my partner. Maybe they are a firm that just wants you to provide them a means to more revenue or lowered pricing, but really weren’t forthright in their true intentions from the onset. Maybe they see benefit to having your company in the affiliate ecosystem (e.g. volume requirement, desired logo or other box checking attribute), but don’t embark on the effort to attain the value. Or, maybe just the idea of having the label of a “Partner” is more desirable than actually a reciprocating business partner – this is often the case where they say all the right things, but operationally or culturally cannot back it up.
Regardless of a company’s position in the marketplace, size or type of products they produce, once a partnership is matched, it deserves a level of dedicated attention, openness and honesty from both partners. This cannot be achieved when matching a “giver” with a “taker”. Eventually, for the “giver”, this relationship goes from confusing to awkward to distressing.
When thinking about your business partnerships today, you might consider asking yourself a few questions.
Is my business a good partner company?
Do my business partners think of us as a good partner company?
Is there a “giver” or a “taker” in our partner relationships? Which am I?
At Velocity, we are a big fan of forming exceptional Partnerships with all of our business colleagues, including clients, suppliers and providers. Please reach out to us if you would like to further discuss this article. We’d love to hear about your experience.