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What Do I Mean – Partnership?

February 21, 2009

A business relationship only becomes a partnership when it is truly dynamic  – it is a two way process, is always moving forwards, and has a plan for shared development. Most importantly, it is not driven by only looking in the rear view mirror. Looking back is useful, safe and wise but it cannot help you know where you are going. A partnership is a mutual exchange of ideas, value and thinking. Alternative business models are transactional and static. There is nothing wrong with this – most media buys are classic transactional deals. In addition, the best parterships are joint and equitable investments in time, money, resources and knowledge and often require developing solutions and activities that are outside of Business As Usual. Partnerships are more often than not, Business As Unusual. A joint understanding of what the other party needs and a shared vision of where the relationship is going is the hardest thing to know and appreciate. It needs to mix commercial insight with personal communication and ‘active listening’ – to get under the skin of the other party. As Tom Peters points out, understanding what you get out of a relationship is really pretty easy, anyone can tell you what has happened in the past. The hard part (and it is the job of partnership and business development managers to do this) – is to understand the future. What the other party is getting from the deal, how they value it, where they are heading – and can the two organisations share that journey? If you know the partner is vital to you (expensive or diffitcult to replace etc) – you’d be wise to understand them. To do this requires decent analysis and plenty of empathy. It requires executives to be the eyes and ears inside the partner’s  business – whilst also being the fair advocate for the partner, inside theirs. Only then can the two organisations build a shared vision of where they are going together. Is it a weekend break in Brighton or a major journey across Brazil? As a wise philosopher once said, how can I have a conversation with you, if we cannot even define our terms.

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