3 Keys to Effective Partnerships

Chains from Mark Skipper
“Chains” by Mark Skipper is licensed under CC BY 2.0

At Excella, I lead our Services organization — really the “what” and “how” of our business. One responsibility in my organization is establishing partnerships to complement what we do. A partnership can deliver value to us, our clients, and our partner if established for the right reasons and managed correctly. For example, we are currently a partner with both Microsoft and AWS and they’ve both been win (clients) – win (partner) – win (us) relationships.

Occasionally I’m asked to look at new partnerships — either by an Excella employee or by a potential partner. These opportunities led me to think about the criteria for exploring a new partnership. Here are some of the keys to successful partnerships from my experience.

1. Know why you’re getting into a partnership and make sure the expectations are reasonable.
To think a new partner will fill up your business development pipeline with quality leads right away is probably a pipe dream. One of the best expectations from my perspective is access to resources — training, content, experts, software. This helps us learn and get smarter, which helps us, helps our clients, and helps our partner.

2. Don’t let the tail wag the dog.
We say we’re “tool agnostic”, which means we want to recommend the best tools and tech for the problem at hand. We don’t want to push a tool to fill a partner quota or get a commission kickback. It’s bad for everybody in the long term. If I’m sitting across the table from a client and recommending a product, I want the client to believe I’m doing it in their best interest — with full confidence that I’m not trying to satisfy a partner quota.

3. The best partnerships evolve from things that are already working.
I don’t like forming partnerships merely hoping the partnership works. I like looking around at what already has worked and finding new partnerships from that. I mentioned we’re partnered with both Microsoft and AWS. We do a lot of work with Microsoft tech. We do a lot on the AWS platform. We did a lot with them both before establishing the partnerships. We took something that was already working and made it better by formalizing the relationship.

There are other considerations, too — alignment of values, proximity, overlap in customer base, engagement from our employees. I usually look at those after the three I listed earlier.

Any other factors from your experience that makes (or breaks) a partnership?

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