Building business partnerships is serious business! In my experience, I’ve found that building business relationships is just as important as cultivating personal ones. I have always taken a long-term view, because I understand that I will most likely associate with individual and corporate business partners for much, if not all, of my career. Therefore, it is vital for every professional to invest the necessary time and effort in building lasting business relationships. Here are five foundational pillars to consider.
- Begin with a win-win mindset. Both parties win by partnering together; otherwise, it’s not a partnership. This differs from a “procurement mindset,” where the buyer expects the cheapest price at all costs. A healthy partnership is based on an understanding about what both parties need to survive. Good clients will want their suppliers to earn the margins they need to stay in business. This mindset shows mutual consideration and respect, and creates a healthy foundation.
- Establish trust. Any relationship that lacks trust is doomed to fail. Companies need to feel assured their potential partners are looking out for their best interests, and are committed to helping them succeed. This applies across all functions, and requires excellent, consistent communication at all levels. Regardless of whether we must deliver good or bad news to clients or partners, open and honest communication is tantamount to building lasting partnerships.
- Foster a healthy “give and take.” In his book, “Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success,” author Adam Grant writes, “If we create networks with the sole intention of getting something, we won’t succeed. We can’t pursue the benefits of networks; the benefits ensue from investments in meaningful activities and relationships.” It’s important to decide which areas of the partnership you will “give in” to, and which you won’t. I often put this on the table at the very beginning of the relationship, to ensure clear expectations from the start. Not only does this build trust; your potential partners will respect the fact that you are open, committed and respectful of their time.
- Align your objectives. Start every relationship with a clear understanding of what you need to make the business deal work, and respect what for your partner needs as well. This is not to say that each company’s goals must be exactly alike; rather, they need to be aligned to the same end goal, like delivering the agreed-upon end-user experience, or solving the customer’s need. Without this alignment, synergy is difficult.
- Ensure depth and breadth of relationships. Individuals leave companies and change jobs, so it’s critical to form a variety of relationships at various levels throughout the partner company. My own rule is to forge strong relationships across three functions, going three or four levels down the organization. This “depth of coverage” expands your reach and strengthens ties on many fronts.
If we create networks with the sole intention of getting something, we won’t succeed.
In today’s corporate world, it is essential to strike up the right partnerships to maximize the potential of your organization. Just as we put extensive effort into building strong personal relationships, the same applies in business. Thinking about relationships the same way helps us get it right. At the end of the day, it all boils down to investment in friendship: building strong partnerships with a network of friends who will always choose to do business with you.
How have you been personally enriched through a healthy business relationship?