Partnering? What… with other companies?
If you attended the Microsoft World Partner Conference last year, one thing that you would have heard over and over again is that Microsoft Partners need to partner with other Microsoft partners. If you missed that message then I would suggest your country party was too good.
Partnering is being bandied around as the way to grow your Microsoft business… wonderful! Sounds logical? Well, yes that is all very well, but it is nothing new and it is certainly not limited to the Microsoft world. We have been partnering for years with the large, the small, the good, the bad and you may be surprised at who partners who, and to what extent.
Here are a few tips to understand about partnering and how to get the most of your partnerships.
Not everyone understands what a partnership actually is about
What does a partnership mean to you? Well in some cases it may be that you just need a little assistance in delivering a solution, in other cases it may well be that you are after a more strategic relationship based around complete offerings. Whatever you are after make sure that you are clear about what you are prepared to put in and what you want in return. Partnerships are about give and take and, if you aren’t clear about those boundaries, someone is not going to gain satisfaction from the relationship.
Take time to learn about your new partner
Sound simple? Yes, it is but it is so often overlooked. You are engaging in business with a relatively unknown entity. You may know the company that you are partnering with, you may know the MD or CEO, but that does not mean you know how the ground staff operate. How do they engage? Who does what? What do they want from your company in the way of administration or output? Go and find out about it. Your partner should be asking the same of you, if they aren’t then tell them what you want, need or how you operate. Set up formal escalation paths to prevent cat fights breaking out. All this effort up front will help stop bickering down the line.
For better, for worse
Partnerships rarely run completely smoothly, especially in the early days, so what do you do? Argue? Fight with arms flailing around like windmills? Scream at each other? No, you talk it through. Take a step back from the situation and look at why the partner is unhappy. Is their complaint justified or is it just noise? Has your company done something wrong? If you are on the receiving end of a mistake that has caused you pain then make sure you are clear about why it has caused you pain. Give the partner a chance to establish the facts and explain, then look for a sensible resolution. There is always an answer. Stand your ground but don’t get belligerent. Once you have worked through a problem, learn from it and the relationship will be stronger for it.
Too many companies new to partnering will start pointing fingers at one another as soon as something goes awry. Resist the temptation to get drawn in to that particular mine field. A new partnering relationship takes time to form fully. Don’t expect it to be roses and dinner all the time. If the relationship is worth pursuing, then both parties need to work at it.
Watch out for white labeling
One thing we experience regularly is partners wanting to white label services. Well, it is time to wake up! White label at your peril! With LinkedIn and Facebook being so prevalent these days, it takes only a few minutes to find out that you are partnering. There is no shame in partnering, but there is shame in being caught lying to your client. Nobody can expect a complete one stop shop with the vast array of technologies around these days, just be grown up about it. Use partnering in the right way to support your business and not many clients will care. It is you who owns the relationship.
Don’t be afraid to walk away
Lastly, sometimes it doesn’t go right and it reaches a point where the relationship is damaged. It is OK to walk away. As long as you know that when you walk away, you have acted in a mature and professional manner and have applied the appropriate level of effort in to making it work, then you can have nothing to dwell on.
Partnering is worth investing time in and can reap huge rewards but don’t expect things to just work with no effort. That will get you nowhere. Invest in the relationship and it will most likely work for you.