At first sight there is very little connection between the World Cup and partnering, but looking around at the World Cup collectibles flooding into every store and supermarket across Europe, I can start to see a link.
Football fans are being encouraged to go out and buy the full set of coins, cards and charts on offer. During the competition, these mementoes will no doubt be highly prized, but in just a few weeks' time they will become valueless pieces of aluminium and card.
In recent months, it has become apparent that many business partnerships are viewed in exactly the same way. But a few become the crown jewels of business. What is it exactly that makes the difference?
Collectible partnerships appear to stem from programmes with no clear benefit to the two businesses involved. Business 'A' determines that it wants a greater share of a particular route to market and asks its business partner managers to go out and sign up partners in this group. And that is it: there is no revenue objective to avoid disrupting the existing channels, just a mission to 'sign them up'. That is where it starts and finishes - it is just another collectible, with an invitation attached to attend the annual partner convention.
The collectible approach works only to fill some spare space on the company letterhead. But it does not have to be this way. There are some very beneficial partnerships, both in our own channel and in our technology partners.
Good partnerships seem to have one crucial element in common: the business objectives of both partners are closely aligned. This may seem very obvious, but in day-to-day business it is often quickly forgotten in the rush to sign up or collect partnerships. But when it happens, it is like winning the World Cup.
Great partnerships seem to require one ingredient above all others - a common set of goals. With this ingredient, both business objectives, and therefore the objectives of the people involved, will be aligned.
Magic then starts to happen. Salespeople automatically work together on joint bids; one business provides pre-sales skills freely to the other; customers and prospects get a sense that there is a true partnership in action, not just for short-term scramble to win their business; and cross-training just happens. Both businesses start to share their vision of the future and their strategies to build a joint direction and genuine teamwork.
Business often shows encouraging examples of partners working as one.
But the euphoria of winning together can camouflage why things are working and therefore why they may just as easily stop working some day. It is not unusual for two unconnected firms to find themselves travelling down the same road and see benefits in working together, but what happens when the road forks?
If the memory of past successes encourages both businesses to continue to work together when they are now on different journeys, the partnership will not work. All too often, trying to breathe life into a dead partnership just ends in tears, or worse.
Every good partnership agreement should plan for a tidy ending and assume that the benefits will not last forever. That way, it is possible to leave the door open for both businesses to part with fond memories of the past.
In our industry, we can waste an enormous amount of each other's time in seeking out a mass of collectible partnering and miss out on a wealth of real opportunities. Perhaps next time we embark on yet another partnering initiative, we should take time out to reflect on what we really want to achieve.
Roger Coles is UK channel director at Tetra.
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