Treat Your Partners like…um, well…Partners

partner “Nothing works better than just improving your product.” — Joel Spolsky, Stack Overflow co-founder

In today’s business environment, it’s far too easy to get caught up in the new hype of the day.  That could be new methodology, new technology, new business models..whatever.  However, I absolutely love Joel Spolsky’s quote to cut through the crap and just lay it out there.  Many companies just aren’t honest enough with themselves to really improve their products (and this goes when their products are their services).  While most companies have their “core competencies”, they often have weak spots or areas that are less developed.  If a company is honest with itself, it will identify the areas to bring in a partner.  While many companies create “strategic partnerships”, they often don’t bring the kind of success that is desired.  Many are left wondering why the partnership didn’t work as well as everyone thought.  In my history over the last several years, I have seen a lack of TRUE partnership be at the heart of the problem.

In my past, I’ve seen the kind of partnership where one side of the equation believed to be superior in every way.  This causes animosity on one side because the “superiority” is evident in the attitudes and body-language during meetings and other discussions.  I’ve also seen the kind of partnership where one partner wasn’t as committed as the other.  Therefore, there wasn’t an equal amount of urgency or attention when issues came up.  There are many other dysfunctional types of arrangements that could be described ad-nauseam!

Partnerships comes to mind this week due to a very positive lesson learned recently.  So often, a “lesson learned” is born out of an incredibly painful situation or a straight-up failure.  While nursing your wounds, you want to find the silver-lining and making sure “that” never happens again…whatever “that” is.  Every once in a while, however, you get a lesson learned from a success.  This is what just happened to me.

The short story is that I did my due diligence and identified a firm that could be a partner.  Fortunately, someone at the partner firm also recognized the potential and we had talked about working together for a while.  Fast forward a few months and both companies clearly identified what they “brought to the table” and what the partner company brought to the table.  By making it very open and honest about each others’ strengths, it was easy to identify boundaries and expectations.  The result was a very good partnership that others could clearly see.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the partnership is 50/50.  It could be (as was in this case) lopsided.  However, the point is that each firm brought a key component that the other did not have.  Therefore, it was an easy conversation that one partner was to receive a bigger piece of the pie than the other.  In general, if you identify other companies that are willing to be real partners (and you are too), then it works very well and there are true…wait for it…synergies! (sorry for the coporate-ese…but I couldn’t help it).  So get out there and pass on various partners until you find one that has the same values and is willing to honestly work as a partner.

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Veteran technology professional and manager

Posted in Career, work habits

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