Last month I participated in a joint webinar with my RPO business partner and provider on the topic of “True Business Partnerships.” As I geared up and prepared for the webinar, it made me think about the current relationship in place with my RPO provider and all the other fantastic relationships I have developed during my tenure at Clear Channel. Of course not every product and service is right for our business, but I make it a point to look at everything and at the very least see the product or service first hand.
For our enterprise-wide initiatives, it was and is very important for me to find true business partners that not only offer innovative and customized solutions, but also to find and identify those business partners who we can trust, who we can lean on for expertise, who are accountable, and who can listen to our business needs and then go and execute for us.
Call it destiny or luck, but I have been able to locate and meet some of the most amazing and high-performing business partners to service our needs when it comes to RPO, HR technology, website design, and recruiting. Of all the great qualities that our business partnerships have forged, one of the main action items that has stuck out to me is that they all possess a vested interest in our success at Clear Channel — and in turn, we have a vested interest in their success as well.
In writing this article on the basis of partnerships, I simply equate the idea of a professional business relationship the same as a personal relationship that one may enter in to. Relationships are hard work. There needs to be communication, interaction, visibility, and transparency. In a personal relationship, those are all items that will keep both individuals happy and on the same page — so why not bring those same characteristics into the corporate world and apply them toward your professional business relationships. But most importantly, the golden rule of partnerships is that it is a two-way street — not a one way, and that is where I see most partnerships fail and not be successful.
I value the advice, guidance, and support that my business partners provide me. Whether it be on human capital, technology, communications, or design, each acts as a trusted business advisor. There is no way we can be as successful as we have been without each of them. With all this said, there are two sets of advice I would like to pass on to both parties — those who sit on the same side as I and who own business relationships, and those prospective business partners who are actively engaged in offering solutions and services …
For those of you who sit in the same seat as I:
- Identify your business needs and requirements and then begin the process to go out and locate those service companies who have the product offerings that can serve as a match and solution.
- Forget the RFP (if you can) and drill down on core competencies and offerings through presentations, research, referrals, and due diligence. Pay attention to those potential partners who truly demonstrate their value with not only a great product but with excellent communication, strong follow up, attention to detail, executive support, customer service, delivery approach, and, frankly, those who you like and who you will be able to forge a lasting friendship/partnership with.
- Be an open book and make your business transparent to your trusted business advisors. The more data, information, vision, etc. that you can share with your business partner(s), the more successful they can and will be for you. No one likes to work in the dark.
- Communication is the ultimate key. I strongly believe in open dialogue and in open table discussions so we are all on the same page with all our business initiatives and objectives. I personally make myself accessible through email, phone, WebEx, cell phone, Skype, social media avenues, Lync, etc. The majority of our initiatives here at Clear Channel require management and communication on an hourly basis — we have to communicate in order to be successful. Too many times agreements are signed and then the communication piece goes in the trash.
- Treat your business partners with respect and as trusted business advisors. Lean on them for research, data, experience, and best-in-class practices. If they can’t deliver, find someone who can.
For those service organizations who are seeking to engage potential client companies:
- You don’t have to know my business, but prepared to listen first. Identify my needs and then demonstrate how your solutions can help solve my needs. To many times, I get calls or in-person meetings and all the salesperson does is talk about their company and products and spends no time listening to my needs.
- Do what you say you are going to do. If you plan follow-up action items, presentations, webinars, etc., you have to come through on your end. The ability to follow up and follow through, deliver on your word, and keep the relationship on track is especially important in a business world full of transactional relationships.
- Product delivery — if you tell me your product or platform is the best in class, then it better be along with everything that comes along with it. Moreover, once I buy — if the process entails me getting handed off to another part of the team, please don’t forget about me. My initial relationship is with you first and foremost.
- Have and maintain a vested interest in your client’s success. I have a terrible business partnership story that I could share about a former service provider. All they were was transactional in nature and the only time I heard from them is when an invoice was past due or when it was renewal time. At no time did they follow up to see how our experience was, how they could help us, or bring us value. Absolutely no interest in our success with their products was ever demonstrated, and needless to say they are no longer a partner of ours.
- Be a trusted advisor — if your relationship with your client company is not what you want it to be, if they are a hassle and don’t value your advice, and you feel as if you are an order-taker — then don’t be afraid to fire them. There are people, businesses, and companies out there looking for strong solutions. Go and find them and deliver value.