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Partnership: More Than Just A Word



Strategic Business Consultant

Sales Growth and Client Retention

Way back in 1996, I was functioning the capacity of Vice President of Integrated Service – a position designed to grow new service offerings for a large hospitality company. 

In a meeting with one COO, one of our premier clients, he said to me,

“Ed, I can no longer afford to work in management fee-for-service arrangements”. I need a partner that I can’t live without that makes me and my organization better”.

My first reaction was fear.  Was he warning me that our professional relationship was coming to an end?  He went on to tell me about a “partnership” that he had engaged in with a well know medical equipment and equipment service provider.  He talked about mutual investment and getting in the harness together.  He talked about courage, alignment, and trust. 

Now mind you, this is a person I considered a great leader and friend.  When I was an operations account manager, he was my client.  We enjoyed many dinners together, coffee breaks, rounds of golf and heady conversations about business.  I loved serving him and his health system. 

As I sat across his worktable from him in his office (he never allowed himself to be distracted, he always got up from behind his desk for discussions) I listened intently.  He always offered insights that stimulated my thinking.  My fear began to subside, and I realized this was not a warning - rather it was an invitation and a challenge to open my mind and make a paradigm shift.  In hindsight it was a gift. 

The Integrated Service program I was responsible for growing required that I find clients with a certain kind of mindset.  The mindset of a forward-thinking leader.  The mindset of a partner.  Exactly what this man had.  The picture he painted for me of his vision was high level and even incomplete.  This was perfect because much of the Integrated Service program required intense collaboration.  It required a mutual commitment to invest time to build it together. 

As we came to the end of our time together, he agreed to meet with me again the following week to discuss the challenge he presented in more detail.  I came away invigorated and a bit impatient for our next meeting. 

The meeting date came, and I was prepared.  I had sent an agenda out a few days prior to the meeting.  By design, it was a touch high level but allowed room to get down into the weeds as we needed to.  It was in this meeting I spoke to him about my company’s vision for a total paradigm shift in managing support services in a healthcare setting. 

The program broke down 13 functional departments and reconstructed them into a far more effective 3 work teams.  It streamlined workflow into like-types for efficiency.  It established an environment where open communication ruled supreme over functional silos.

This integration also cut across 3 individual healthcare facilities that functioned independently.  It was a beautiful thing, and he became excited as we discussed the incredible potential of this for the employees of both our companies and our organizations overall.  We agreed to get to work the following week.  The effort would require many members from both our teams.

Fast forward 9 months later, after countless hours of collaborative design over evening pizza and soda dinners in a large conference room with Post-it pads hanging on all four walls  – we were ready to launch. 

I’ll never forget the day the agreement was signed.  The Vice President of Human Resources at the health system had never bought in.  He could not get past losing about 400 employees to our company payroll, he struggled to see how they were set to benefit both personally and professionally with training, career enhancement, opportunities. 

In the administrative suite, the COO brought the contract in for the CEO to sign.  The VP of HR clearly wasn't bought in, and the now co-architect of our new partnership, the COO challenged simply, “do you have a way to improve the care of our patients, the lives of our employees, and save over $1 million dollars at the same time?"

That was the end of the objections and the partnership agreement was signed and sealed.

Yes indeed, partners still must execute formal legal documents.  But this one was different.  Like real partners, we were sharing savings 50/50 – which were even more than $2 million dollars annually.  This was huge in 1997. 

What was unique about this you might ask?  It meant our company would only get paid for the actual direct expenses we incurred until real savings were realized as outlined in the mutual budget – an Appendix to the agreement document.  The Governance Committee for Integrated Service, including executive members from each of our organizations, would have to concur that the savings were real, which was outlined in our Partnership Charter. 

This effort took us to new heights.  Together, as the market changed, we implemented so many things to improve our Integrated Service program and the results it provided to the health system.  We expanded to include other partners as well.  From robots that collect trash to employee concierge programs to name a few.  These were what were considered cutting edge at the time.  1+1 equaled a lot more than 2 in this partnership. 

Partnerships last.  This partnership endured another twenty-four years before the health system was purchased, and Integrated Service was dismantled.  They couldn’t catch the vision for something they had difficulty understanding.  It also did not align with their traditional silo departments.  I remember hearing them say “Integrated Service did not fit with their accounting programs”.  I knew at this moment; they would never “get” what we were doing. 

Anyone can say the word “partnership”.  It sounds good and resonates with most business people. And this is unfortunate because the opportunities to do better are abundant. 

Do you have what it takes to be a partner? 

TRUE NORTH© is your roadmap to building the right kinds of business relationships, with your ideal clients and creating the best outcomes for both your client and for your organization. Now available virtually in a convenient, on-demand video format so you can work at your own pace through the program.

This program lays down the foundational learnings for your team - from building mutual trust to deep self-reflection of both strengths and opportunities, to the practical steps to retaining better and winning better business. 


From essential foundational workshops and collaboration to strategic partnerships and growth training, TRUE NORTH© is an all-encompassing program, including: 


  • NORTH STAR: Fundamentals: Purpose, Mission, Vision, and Guiding Principles 

  • FUTURE FOCUS: Where do you want to be and when? 

  • MARKETMATCH©: Ideal Client Characterization, Profile, and Prospect Targeting 

  • GROWTH PLAYBOOK & BUSINESS PLAN: Your customized roadmap to growth 

  • TRUE NORTH© Academy: Growth, sales, and retention team training 

  • TRUE NORTH© Workshops: specifically selected based on your situation. 

  • PARTNERSHIP OPTIMIZATION PROGRAM (POP): launching a new partnership or reviving  an existing partnership. 

Ready to sign up? Look at our membership options below or visit to sign up now.




ED SNOWDEN Strategic Business Consultant

Sales Growth and Client Retention Ed has over 45 years of progressive growth in leadership responsibility at two Fortune 500 management services and hospitality companies: ServiceMaster and Aramark.

At both organizations he was regularly promoted based on his performance and was awarded several awards in both sales and operational roles.

As Vice President of Operations, Ed provided leadership for a hospitality team of over 500 people and an operating budget of over $60MM which he successfully renewed for five years. He has extensive experience in a multitude of business capacities including strategic account management, sales, and growth leadership.

As Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, Ed was responsible for cultivating professional relationships for the company’s largest healthcare clients in North America valued at over $350MM annually. In that role he assisted in the writing of a living Strategic Account Management Playbook.

At 4xiGlobal Consulting, Ed co-authored the TRUE NORTH© Strategic Learning Academy centered on creating a new mindset for developing and retaining the best business partners, winning better, retaining better business.


4xi Global Consulting & Solutions is a team of talented leaders from both the client-side and service provider side, impacting the Human Experience (HX) for people at work, in education, rest, and at leisure.

We believe in a people-first, experience-led philosophy. Whether client, employee, or guest – their experience is the fundamental foundation of success.

We work with corporations, service providers, and innovators:

  • Strategic Advisory & Special Projects (SPx)

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  • Evolving Experiences©: Employee (EX) & Customer Experience (CX)

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  • TRUE NORTH©: Strategic Partnership & Growth

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  • Explorers Innovation Directory: Gateway to Innovation


4xi is proud to be Chair of WORKTECH Academy for North America and a member of its Leadership Advisory Board. 4xi is a Global Ambassador for WORKTECH Academy.

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