First of all, I want to define “partner” as a significant supplier of ancillary goods or services, who is neither the primary vendor nor the purchaser. Partners include: contractors, consultants, service providers, outsourcers, etc.
You trust them with your business results, customers, and reputation. The wrong business partnerships can result in increased costs, poor results, and significant frustration.
Often, too little effort or too much process and paperwork leads to the wrong partner choice.
Partnerships are relationships! With this in mind, let’s look at 10 simple ways to improve business results, by improving relationships with your business partners:
- Select partners carefully. Don’t start with the A’s in the phone book. Make sure you know the important things to be done and find the right partner that can do them.
- Don’t ask for the world at a bargain price. You’re not shopping at Walmart. Good results require good people/products/services, so you have to pay a fair price.
- Sign a good contract that protects both parties and is negotiated fairly. Deal with business constraints upfront. Last-minute price bashing or bait and switch tactics are bad ways to start this relationship.
- Consider long-term consequences of the relationship. Cultural fit is important, as are considerations on price increases over time, obligations, key resources/services, change requests, termination conditions, etc.
- Make it personal. Identify people responsible for success and get to know them. Communicate often and openly to address issues and opportunities quickly.
- Have mutual respect for each other. Don’t be quick to dismiss others’ concerns and remember to listen, understand, and stay focused on the business results. Defensive and negative behavior is a no win game.
- Be loyal. Loyalty is important in any relationship and the grass is not always greener. This does not mean settling. Instead, always aim to improve things, and don’t break something that is working well.
- Be a reference for good work. This usually leads to more good work.
- Don’t nickel and dime. Flexibility is key. Stay focused on the key items.
- End the relationship quickly if it’s not working. Business is hard, don’t waste time when it is not happening.
I am sure you get the picture. And no, I’m not a marriage counselor. This is about what is best for your business and reducing frustration when dealing with key business partners.