How to Partner up Successfully

In the previous blog post I talked about the benefits and pitfalls of partnerships between companies. Here are some thoughts on the prerequisites of successful partnerships, and a few examples.

How to partner up successfully

Trust is the cornerstone of a partnership. Trust must be earned, so prior collaboration between the partners would be the best starting point.

In addition to the self-evident trust, there are three common elements that are required for a successful partnership.

The first is a compelling but realistic vision of what you can achieve together. This, of course, requires that the partnering companies’ senior management teams are involved in defining and committing to the vision.

The second cornerstone is impact. Both or all the partners must gain business benefits. If a partnership becomes a zero-sum game, it will fail. The effects of the partnership must become visible on the bottom line. Define the business case for the partnership.

The third success factor is open sharing of information, or intimacy. This can be a big change in the way companies have used to work. Before the partnership you could pretend that something was in order, but now you’ll actually have to “come as you are.” Technically you may have to integrate your information system for real time data exchange.

Being in close contact with another company soon shows if the values and cultures of the partners match. I’m not saying that they’ll have to be exactly similar, but if one of the partners is “green” and the other is dumping waste into a nature reserve, that won’t work. Both are building a brand together.

Why some clients may not cherish partnerships

Partnerships can be great from the supplier’s point of view, but many clients seem less enthusiastic. They want to keep control on the suppliers, mainly to retain their negotiating power. That has lead to a situation where there can be 50 to 80 subcontractors at a construction site at any given time, without any mutual agreements.

It is not self-evident that partnerships are always greeted with unreserved joy. Joint ventures are an exception, if the client agrees on the benefits.

Partnering across disciplines

I’ve had the pleasure to help companies in creating unconventional partnerships. For example, a quantity surveyor, software developer and residential developer created a business concept that provides customizable apartments. They developed an online service that lets a homebuyer configure a home from prequalified elements. The system is able to create visualizations and quote the price of the new home at once. They wanted to make buying an apartment as easy as buying a car.

Another example is a joint service concept developed by a professional services firm, an HVAC engineering company, a maintenance firm and an owner. They are able to offer large organizations with lots of offices a service that allows the client to improve the quality of their working environments while at the same time reduce facilities-related costs.

I’ve also helped a team of consultants create an offering for lean industrial design projects. Now I’m also involved in a project where a special trade contractor is developing a partnering model for renovation projects.

What I find most interesting are the projects where different disciplines, even from outside the industry, partner up for something new.