Partners make for a wonderful business asset in more ways than one. They expand your customer base and reach, give you a fresh perspective and provide extra support. The value of cultivating relationships with individuals, clients and businesses takes time and effort, but it will benefit your business in the long run.
By Michael Hess
Lennon and McCartney. Ben and Jerry. Jobs and Wozniak. That famous saying “two heads are better than one” could not be more true when it comes to solving challenges, fostering collaboration and brainstorming new ideas. Whether it is an internal partnership between two colleagues, a relationship with a potential customer or a larger agreement with another business, harnessing the abilities of others is fundamental for growth.
Partnerships can take on a variety of forms. Some might be for short-term solutions that require minimal time. Other business relationships might be for a long-term product offering. And just like in life, relationships are not always easy. They require collaboration and communication to be successful, regardless of how small or large the businesses or parties involved are.
A partnership could mean your business will have access to unique information and new products, reach a new market or increase customer loyalty. Your business may now be able to expand its horizons in areas you might not have previously
explored. However, opportunities and partnerships come with risk and potential challenges, which is why it is important to keep partnership management at the forefront.
Business without partnerships would be less innovative, and there are right and wrong ways to partner. What does successful partnership management look like? It is all about open communication, defining roles and responsibilities, setting goals that hold each other accountable and, ultimately, being a team player. Take these four tips into consideration when it comes to building and maintaining lasting business partnerships.
#1: Create a Communication Structure
Conversations and collaboration are key elements to any successful partnership. Create a platform for communication that works for each partner and for the business. For example, deciding between e-mails versus phone calls versus in-person as the primary means of communication. Once that is established, it is best to determine a formal structure. Scheduling daily check-ins, weekly meetings, quarterly reviews and an annual meeting ensures everyone is on the same page. It is better to overcommunicate than under, and the key to a strong partnership is being open and honest.
Open communication also goes hand-in-hand with great customer service. Providing unmatched customer experience goes beyond knowing your customers by name and offering occasional assistance. It is about clear and concise communication and providing expertise at a level that is personalized to each customer.
#2: Understand Each Other’s Roles and Responsibilities
It is imperative that the organization, or people you are partnering with, are aligned. You are now making decisions that impact someone else. It is best to define and understand each other’s roles and responsibilities so time management is efficient. Strengths and weaknesses should be discussed so the partnership knows areas that might need more attention. It is also best to discuss each other’s needs and expectations of not only yourself, but also of each other. What roles and responsibilities will you need from your partner and what can you contribute to make the partnership successful? Once you have that information, you will have a game plan and know exactly what to expect from each other.
#3: Set Goals and Hold Each Other Accountable
Goals are a great way to hold a partnership accountable when necessary. Company goals should align, but it is also important to create individual goals that build into what the partnership wants to accomplish. Partnerships bring excitement about the outcomes of doing business together, but accountability often gets missed in all the hype. There should be a discussion upfront about where the accountability for results falls and what the consequences will be if goals are not met. It is a hard conversation, but it is imperative for the success of the business and the partnership. Setting expectations from the beginning is key. Be direct and outline what expected goals and outcomes will look like for both parties at the beginning of the partnership. In the end, it will help determine if the partnership is successful.
#4: There is No “I” in Team
To make the partnership as valuable as it can be, it should be about learning, growing and benefiting from each other’s knowledge and experience. Partnerships cannot operate alone—teamwork makes the dream work. It is something that we all heard at a young age, and it holds true when it comes to building trust and being able to depend on your partner. No one person or business does all the work, nor should any one member seek more recognition than the others. When you think about the building blocks of any relationship, teamwork should always be the foundation.
Collaboration is built upon open and honest communication, direct and consistent interaction, and holding each other accountable. Each person should understand their role in the relationship dynamic and what each business must do to be successful. Partners make for a wonderful business asset in more ways than one. They expand your customer base and reach, give you a fresh perspective and provide extra support. The value of cultivating relationships with individuals, clients and businesses takes time and effort, but it will benefit your business in the long run. | WA
Michael Hess is founder and chief executive officer of Waste Harmonics, a Rochester, NY-based company that provides customized waste and recycling management solutions for businesses across North America. Michael leads Waste Harmonics’ team of waste/recycling, technology, logistics and customer service experts who manage waste and recycling services—which deliver significant costs savings—for single- and multi-location businesses in a wide range of categories, including retail, grocery, restaurant, travel center, logistics, distribution and shipping. Prior to founding Waste Harmonics, Michael served as Vice President of U.S. Operations for Capital Environmental Resource Inc., a $120-million-in-revenue solid waste collection and disposal company with operations in the Northeastern U.S. and Canada. During his tenure at Capital Environment, Hess served as an integral part in the acquisition, startup and integration of 11 solid waste companies for more than two and a half years. Michael acquired Waste Harmonics from Capital Environment in 2001 and has since grown the business from a solely Northeastern U.S. focus to serving customers throughout the U.S. and Canada. For more information, call (585) 924-9640, e-mail i[email protected] or visit www.wasteharmonics.com.