Thursday, June 19, 2008

Partner or Perish

That's the survival mantra for most companies big and small today. Let's pool our strengths to prosper. Ten years back my boss used to say "why slog alone trying to re-invent the wheel when you can stand on the shoulder of a giant." And this wisdom works wonders today as well. More so for small companies that do not have deep pockets.

Companies like us have niche services, great people, precious clients, and survive comfortably. But to expand our services, expand into newer geographies and expand our client base we need not run looking for VCs. A good partnership can be like a good life partner who can propel each other to greater heights. Some points to remember about partnerships:

Before you get into one!

1. If you want a partnership in the same region, look for companies that offer complementary skills. This strengthens both without worrying about the dark clouds of competition. Helps pool marketing resources, pool network, and basically emerge stronger.

2. For partnerships across geographies, look for companies that have similar philosophies and work culture. Also, watch out for their history of growth, types of clients, and skill level of people. The key here is to work together for a while and load test each other's idiosyncrasies!

3. For partnerships with support companies, check out the team size, team skills, and their commitment levels. If you have to depend on the support team for client deliveries, it is critical for them to appreciate quality and deadline as much and you do.

After you are one!

4. Set clear communication channels between the partnering companies. There is nothing worse than a relationship going sour due to miscommunication or no communication. Talk, talk , and talk. Believe me, I've learned the hard way! Eliminate all barriers in communication, remove complex channels, pick up phones or take a flight, but never let the threads of communication to fray ever.

5. Mutual respect - There is no place for egos in a partnership. And believe me most entrepreneurs are so used to making their own decisions that they have a tough time listening to another entrepreneur about how to run his business. But, leave your ballooning egos behind. Remember, its not just your business, its our business now. Respect each others' skills, expertise, opinions, and ideas. Honor each others' clients and client commitments. Share responsibilities.

6. Be it joint ventures, partnerships, or collaborations - all relationships need to be nurtured. They cannot mature overnight, so give it time, patience, thought, and attention. Offer as much support as you can. Understand the quirks, appreciate the differences, and celebrate the togetherness. Yes, I may sound like a marriage counselor :) but I believe all relationships (more for a company-company relationship) need to be handled with care and sensitivity!

In the fast and furious era of change where your business vision gets redefined every 4 months, it is impossible to grow in an island. So, all you entrepreneurs, Partner or Perish!


Satyajit said...

I personally believe that forging partnerships are like the Lycra advertisement...."either u have it or u don't". once u meet someone u know instantly if they should partner u or not....background check and all others come after the "it" is established.
i also believe that partnerships start at a "person" level but ideally should move towards the organization level.

Arwen Taylor said...

I agree that we have entered an age where collaboration is key. I see more and more freelancers partnering together to extend their reach so to speak. For example, a freelance writer and a freelance designer partnering to expand the services of their respective businesses.

It is important that you get to know your potential partner as well as you can, however, especially when it comes to their reputation. Poor partnerships can ruin a business as quickly as poor money management skills.

Rashmi said...

Collaborations are critical. And like Satya says, this can only happen between two partners who trust each other. You really cannot put everything down on paper, so trust and willingness to make it work go a long way!