Making the most of partnerships for long-term growth

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BY JENNIFER WARAWA

Traditionally business success could be achieved solely through entrepreneurship, acquisition, and the harnessing of capital to fuel growth.

While these strategies can still help keep a company in the black, my personal experiences have taught me that today’s enterprises are more likely to find success in the long-term by establishing partnerships and alliances with complementary innovators and suppliers, rather than attempting to forge ahead alone.

As global economies shift, and we face world changing events like Brexit, war on trade, and conflicts that impact resources, companies are expected to do more with less. Rather than reinvent the wheel each time a new technology or service is needed, more companies are looking to partner with likeminded businesses to help improve and drive efficiency in their own business processes and operations.

Such an approach is easily said, yet not so easily done, as it requires creating partnerships that go beyond paper contracts and fixed deals. This is about building relationships that form the foundations of smart business. For example, the partnership between budget air travel brand, easyJet and car hire service, Europcar allows travellers to conveniently plan their journeys and enjoy seamless transition across multiple modes of transport. The partnership clearly benefits everyone involved, but especially the customer – results from 2016 show that bookings of Europcar vehicles by easyJet passengers rose by 36% and was being extended. To get the most out of partnerships, there are several areas to consider, from finding your partner, to signing on the dotted line and beyond.  

Choosing the right partner for business

The success or failure of any business relationship depends heavily on how well the partnership works. Particular effort should be directed towards ensuring the right
relationships are formed. Businesses need to establish precisely what they are seeking to achieve from these relationships, whether it be expanding into new territories, providing new services, or discovering a new route
to market.

Amazon Web Services is a good example where businesses don’t have to build their own hosting infrastructure. Instead of buying, owning and maintaining their own data centres and servers, organisations can now have access to these resources and other services on an as-needed basis. As a result, businesses are freed to focus their time on other activities that can drive growth and influence customer satisfaction.

Building on the foundations

Once you have a partnership in place with defined and shared goals, it is important to foster growth and set up a rhythm of checking-in on the status of the partnership at regular intervals.

While a contract might be signed and sealed, a partnership has a lot more scope to grow if all parties involved provide feedback and share the aspects of the partnership that are doing well, and where there are areas for improvement.

Emphasis on flexibility

With this in mind, it is also worth considering partnerships built around flexible contracts. This gives both sides the opportunity for adjustment of parameters set, enabling innovation, and a cross-pollination of ideas, which ultimately delivers more value out of a partnership in the long term.

The benefits of such as partnership usually outweigh any disadvantages. For example, sharing of contacts, supply chains, or the experience of how to break into new markets or arenas, you may not have considered before.  This could then be further expanded to develop small one-to-one partnerships, into group ventures, or even establish a community of companies, suppliers and customers working together.

Such a community could flourish into an ecosystem, leading to the sharing of products, services, and infrastructure, thereby creating a situation where everyone involved can benefit and support each other.

Gaining buy-in at the highest level

Whatever the size of business, and however lofty the ambition, partnerships can be strengthened and boosted by gaining executive sponsorship, as having the right support can bring experience, knowledge and authority to the forging of long-lasting partnerships.

Equally, having a clear line of leadership and ownership on both sides of a partnership can help spearhead its early success, with people taking responsibility to ensure a partnership expands beyond a contract and into a strong working relationship that promises to bloom over time.

Scratch beneath the surface of any of today’s prominent companies and you are likely to find a handful of partnerships helping fuel that success. Companies can no longer afford to work in silos – taking influence, technology and resources and applying them to a successful business model not only makes good commercial sense, it’s a great way to meet customers changing needs. And in the ever more competitive business world, successful long-term partnerships are likely to be the difference between a company blazing a trail or fading into obscurity.