There are many terms used in business about working together with clients or indeed other related businesses– “we want to build a partnership” or “we aim to be an extension of your business” – some call them clichés and they can be if used without really working to actually make that true partnership happen. I use these phrases and have been told they are clichés – however I believe they are achievable and are the only way to work. We cannot be a complete expert in every single area, however much we try! To really work together in partnership, you can harness the skills of others and they can harness yours; Aristotle’s saying: “The whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts” comes to mind.
There are many types of partnerships we see developing: with clients, with suppliers, with other related businesses, internally between departments, indeed within my own board …I could go on, but for the purpose of this blog will concentrate on partnerships with clients and with other businesses:
What makes the relationship with your client a partnership rather than a straight forward charity-agency relationship – what makes us more than just a ‘supplier’ and why is that important? Once you take a step away from being a straight forward supplier you can start to add immense extra value to the relationship. We are experts at fundraising and the client is obviously the expert as far as their charity is concerned; by bringing the two together in a real partnership we don’t just offer a fundraising service, we offer our expertise, we work together to develop a strategy, we are more likely to innovate and bring new ideas to the client who has the trust in us to work together to develop new strategies, and campaigns constantly evolve. When there is a real partnership developed there is more trust and more invested by both organisations. Results are obviously key and we know that better results are the outcome of building a true partnership: our whole team are engaged; we encourage client visits and training by clients as often as possible and this means our fundraisers do truly become ‘an extension’ of the charity with the knowledge and engagement and the communication and feedback continually flowing between the 2 organisations and we are able to feedback and help the charities messaging as we are speaking to their supporters on a daily basis.
Building partnerships with other businesses with Synergy to us: – this is a vital element of our approach. If you look up synergy on Wikipedia it says this: “Synergy in management refers to the combined effort of individuals as participants of the team. The condition that exists when the organization's parts interact to produce a joint effect that is greater than the sum of the parts acting alone” - there goes Aristotle again! This doesn’t need to be limited to internal teams and it makes complete sense to work in partnership with others who don’t just compliment but augment your own skill set. I think many businesses shy away from this type of approach out of fear that they could give away their secrets or loose a level of control with clients. Personally, I believe collaborations when planned well can add tremendous strength to a business and add limitless value to clients by us being able to offer a fully joined up integrated offering. A couple of key points to consider first though are:
Establishing that the business you are looking to partner with is on a level with you as far as service levels and company values is obviously vital as a first step, without this due diligence you are in danger of your own reputation being tarnished just through the association.
Establish that you share the same motivations for entering into a partnership
Establishing clear responsibilities, how are the relationships are managed and by whom – if this isn’t clear and agreed at the very start, instead of saving clients time, it could cause confusion and damage a relationship
Establishing transparency from the outset and not holding onto information in the fear that you could loose out somehow. The greater the flow of knowledge between the 2 organisations, the greater the benefit to the client.
If these areas are all covered off, both parties are on the same page as far as expectations and what you are looking to gain from working together and a clear way or working is agreed then there is absolutely no reason not to collaborate and everything to gain – just look at Spotify & Uber, Apple & IBM or Apple Pay & Mastercard – all fantastic examples of strategic, innovative and most importantly successful partnerships offering an enhanced product or service to their clients.