by Ed Rigsbee, CSP
Are you tired of adversarial business relationships draining your energy? Is it time to look at a new way of conducting business – one that empowers all to be more productive and profitable?
If the pain of where you are is greater than the perceived pain of the unknown, you might be ready for partnering. Partnering is an idea that is loosely used to describe anything from teamwork to alliances to contractual partnerships. Partnering, as I define it, is the process of two or more entities coming together for the purpose of creating synergistic solutions to their mutual challenges. I recommend you adopt partnering as your overall business strategy. The benefits are numerous, yet the partnering path is not without land mines.
Partnering is not meant to be a flavor-of-the-month management strategy to be hastily adopted and then as quickly abandoned, rather a long term paradigm for success. Partnering is not instant gratification! To adopt partnering as your overall management strategy, you’ll need to understand the Partnering Pentad. A pentad is simply the name given to a group of five. The Partnering Pentad represents the five key areas of every business, the areas in which to begin developing your partnering belief and activities. Once in place, you’ll have Total Organizational Partnering.
Synergistic Alliances is the area of your business where you develop alliances with outside entities for activities where you have core weaknesses you desire to shore up and to cut costs. These could include purchasing, R&D, manufacturing, employee sharing, distribution, marketing, and advertising. By sharing your core strengths with others and theirs with you, both can create an environment of synergy yielding each more than the some total of their collective contributions. Land mines to watch out for are core values of alliance members being too different, circles of interest overlapping too little, and continual management change of one or more alliance partners.
Supplier Partnering is an area where much is being talked about. For companies desiring just-in-time manufacturing (JIT) and electronic data interchange (EDI) ordering and inventory control, partnering is an absolute prerequisite. What I hear so often from suppliers about their customers is, “They’re talking marriage but acting one night stand.” Whether you be a retailer, distributor, or manufacturer–to succeed and prosper, you had better start developing long-term relationships with those from whom you do your purchasing. The biggest land mine in this area is to talk about quality, delivery, and reliability while only buying based on price. Remember, there is today’s price but there is also the overall cost – the overall cost is usually lower through long-term partnering relationships.
Customer Partnering is the area of your business where you must be outward driven. Your customers will buy from you as long as they feel they’re receiving good value for the dollars they give you. Value-added is a term which much is being written about. You must be customer/market driven rather than product driven to understand what your customers want and perceive as value being added to your products and services. It costs about ten times as much to get a new customer as to keep a loyal customer coming back for more. The important land mine to watch out for is short-term thinking on your part when making customer satisfaction decisions.
Employee Partnering to many businesses is a “non-issue,” meaning that they don’t. What motivated the WWII generation is different from what motivates baby boomers and is different from what motivates the youth of today. Just because something motivates you, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will motivate those of a different generation. If you want your employees to have ownership in your business – even though they don’t have a legal ownership and hold sacred the business as you do – you must empower your employees. Empowering means giving them the authority and encouraging them to accept the responsibility to do the job. Then acknowledge their successes and failures in an environment of safety – one where you encourage and reward risk taking. The major land mine to watch out for is the Ego Trap, yours of course. To give power, you must be a powerful person, one who possesses personal power rather than power simply acquired from your position.
Owners/Executives as Optimal Partners
Owners/Executives as Optimal Partners is the final and in many ways the most important part of the pentad. Not the most important from the perspective that all revolves around you, but that of having a culture of true partnering. The belief must start at the top, you must lead the charge and show by words and actions that the paradigm of partnering is truly your preferred and accepted business strategy. The critical land mine here is when top brass arrogantly believes that they are at the center of the pentad and that all should revolve around them. The coveted center is reserved for the relationships that bind the partnering pentad and your organization as a viable entity serving society and receiving profits as the result.
For today’s cutting-edge business leaders, partnering is the prevailing answer. The Partnering Pentad will enable businesses of any size to access the benefits generated by pooling the knowledge and experience, crucial to compete in the global marketplace. Partnering is the answer if you are willing to adopt the paradigm of collaboration for mutual success! Challenge yourself to put into action the paradigm of partnering as your management and marketing strategy. Nicholas Copernicus, the father of modern astronomy, in the first decade of the 16th century A.D., wrote a paper stating, contrary to conventional wisdom, that the earth was not the center of the universe, but rather that it rotated around the sun. For this he was rewarded with a 500-year excommunication by the church. What price are you willing to pay for progress?
Ed Rigsbee is a Certified Speaking Professional and the author of PartnerShift, Developing Strategic Alliances, and The Art of Partnering. Rigsbee has over 1,000 published articles to his credit and is a regular keynote presenter at corporate and trade association conferences across North America. He can be reached at (800) 839-1520 or EdRigsbee@aol.com. For additional information and ideas, visit his Partnering University Web Site at www.rigsbee.com.