Author:Kevin Hamilton

March 2, 2022

It takes a village (of partners) to serve our customers

Increasing specialization of firms has boosted the opportunity to go to market as a partnership.

3 min read

Key aspects of finding a good business partnership include culture, skills and geography, leading to better service for your customers.

The data artist, the benchmark provider, and the technology platform(er).

While not quite the same feel as the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker, the underlying ideal holds.

Could a butcher bake? Probably, but it wouldn't be as good as the baker's bread.

Can a benchmark provider build a beautiful dashboard? Again, probably but is that really the best use of their time and skillset?

Business partnerships are nothing new, but in the last few years, I've found that they have become an increasingly important part of the strategy for our group. We can focus on our core competencies by finding partners with complementary skillsets while offering our customers a superior end product. Additionally, by assembling a solid set of partners, more people are out in the market looking for opportunities that can benefit the collective. I firmly believe that this is the way forward for many companies.

Finding a good partner isn't always easy; sometimes everything clicks right away, and you're off to the races; other times, you search for the right specialized partner and can't find a good fit. Over the last few years, I've identified a few attributes of a good partner.

Three critical aspects of finding a suitable partner:

  • Culture and Energy: While two companies will not have identical cultural norms, the culture of the organizations must be reasonably in sync, or the partnership will not work. Is one company a 24/7 "always-on" type of organization while the other company is more 9 to 5? That relationship will likely end in frustration.

  • Skills Overlap: Most partnerships will have some amount of overlapping offerings. This overlap is ok! Where some overlapping skills exist, the teams can hopefully learn from one another and act as a relief valve as one partner gets busy. Often, pitching in and helping your partner can lead to additional work for everyone. The key to making it work is open and honest communication. However, if the partnership is entirely overlapping, that's more problematic and should be avoided.

  • Geography: Having partners in different geographies can be advantageous but presents unique challenges. While we've had great success with our partners in Australia and New Zealand, coordinating meeting times has been a bit of a beast!

Once you've identified a good partner, I've found it advantageous to move with reasonable expedience to sign a partnership agreement that covers the broad legal construct, but leaves open the specific project work to be agreed upon as projects come about.

Once the paperwork is out of the way, I've found it best to get going on a project. Often partnerships can stall before getting off the ground while everyone tries to determine what "perfect" looks like. If you've picked the right partner, many issues can be resolved along the way.

As we've continued building out our Symphony platform, our strategy has been to focus on staying technology agnostic (to enable building in many different applications), reduce administrative and end-user friction, and seek input from our partners as they work with their end clients. In doing this, our partners help us to make a better product while our product helps them to generate a better experience for their customers, allowing us all to have a profitable and effective arrangement.

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