Divorce or Renew Your Vows? In the context of business and strategic partnerships, this question comes up time and again.
You may have been happy partners for some time and the romance has all but gone from the relationship. What you both saw in each other during courtship (the sales process) may have been lost or waned over time. Often, if one partner is unhappy it's likely that the other is too.
Things may never have been great. Maybe the deal was overpromised and under-delivered. Maybe your expectations were greater than the reality whether rose-tinted vision or over-optimism on behalf of your partner.
In this context, divorce means supplier change, often through lengthy and expensive RFP processes that may or may not bring you the results that you aspire to. So the question becomes, do you divorce, or do you renew your vows?
In 4xi's TRUE NORTH© we talk about how TRUST is at the very foundation of partnership - this is a fundamental question to ask yourself when determining your options. If Trust no longer exists then there is no question that your option probably should be RFP, and therefore potentially divorce.
It may be that through the RFP you realize that your current partner isn’t that bad after all or that there are no partners materially differentiated in the marketplace - RFP’s are an expensive process to go through and that is why some organizations opt for a truncated and less expensive RFX process that may give you the same insights.
BEWARE: Testing the market on price may likely reduce cost but will it get you to the value level your organization yearns for? Whatever the product or service partner provides, it's assumed it has some greater value to your organization than simply cost.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Your level of dissatisfaction may not only be your partner's fault - the reason that partnerships and relationships break down is usually a two-way street. The analysis of what went wrong is probably a healthy thing for you to go through together - it may enlighten you both and hold learnings that can steer you into the future.
"There is however another option to an RFX and in marriage terms, that's termed as renewing your vows."
Since your marriage, the people and personalities may have changed, your businesses will have changed, as probably have the markets and environment you both operate within.
4xi’s Partnership Charter process is a great framework to start and to return that spark that once compelled your organizations together.
Consider exploring the following pathway to TRUE NORTH©:
TRUST: is the very foundation of all relationships no less so than in business, and the basis of trust is to understand if you are on the same page. Do you agree on the fundamentals?
PURPOSE: where are you both today, your focus and ambitions for your businesses tomorrow, what are you both trying to achieve? Where is the synergy and alignment in your businesses, is there a common thread between what you both want?
PEOPLE: are the most important part of any business and partnership. To what extent are you and your teams aligned? Your culture, behaviors, your approaches to engagement, employee, and customer engagement?
PRODUCT OR SERVICES: Are they still relevant for what you need? Do they perform to the level that you need, expect? Are there metrics to prove it?
LEADERSHIP ALIGNMENT: and commitment is critical. Is there the appetite to explore and revisit the partnership and to build on the levels of Trust that remain?
FOCUS: What is your vision for the future? Are you broadly pointed in the same direction? To what extent do you differ. Diametric opposites? At 90 degrees, or close enough that there is a realistic opportunity to close the gap?
IT'S GOOD TO TALK: Discuss the history of your partnership, what went right, what went wrong - AVOID apportioning any blame - keep this an open but frank discussion - this is about finding common ground and agreement, not the opposite. Also, BE HONEST it's better to get any underlying issues out in the open.
"If you’ve got this far and to a greater extent ticked the boxes, then maybe it’s worth considering creating a Partnership Charter to literally get you on the same page, together"
The Partnership Summit
Given there are good business reasons to renew your vows, and if the parties are in agreement, then it's important to invest the right level of time and commitment to exploring a potential future together.
A Partnership Summit can take many forms but there are some essential ingredients including having leadership from both sides at the table with a clear purpose - to see if the parties can get on the same page and create a set of foundational principles that not only meet both partners needs but are sustainable over time and maintain the alignment of focus and commitment.
CONSIDER: The time allocation and dedication to the conversation are important. Yes, this could be in the boardroom of one or the other partner's offices but consider taking the Partnership Summit off-site where beyond the business in hand you get the opportunity to get to know each other, secure, and build deeper levels of relationships, and trust.
The Partnership Charter
The Partnership Charter is a document that can also take many forms - from one sheet of paper that maps out the core principles to a more extensive aide memoir that is more in-depth and perhaps more visual.
Whatever the final format you choose, here are the fundamentals of what that should include:
Vision, Mission & Purpose - The What and the Why
Leadership Commitment - Signatories of the document
Partnership Objectives - Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, Timelined
Partnership Wiring - Connectivity, Sponsors, and Support
Communications & Cadence - Who, where, how often
Vernacular - The language applied including Acronyms
Measures of Success - KPI's AND VPI's
Parameters - Investments, Resources, Financials
Commitments - from both partners
Creating a Culture of Partnership
It's critical that this important work isn't done in isolation and then left to gather dust in a drawer. To really drive partnership success, this set of commitments between your organizations has to be cascaded and embraced on both sides of the partnership.
Every meeting should kick off with a reminder of the Partnership Principles. The Partnership Charter should be readily available to all team members. There should be regular joint team training of the content, principles, and commitments. Job Descriptions, remuneration, and reward structures should be aligned too.
This is not just some emotional journey to renew your vows, there are solid business reasons why you should invest in existing partners in such a way that you can achieve transformative change and business improvement.
You can do this without the mostly costly and timely expense of undertaking an RFP and what can often be a significant cost and risk of change.
4xi Global Consulting is committed to helping organizations in advancing Strategic Partnerships & Growth - Through our TRUE NORTH© platform, 4xi can help you navigate your current relationships and partnerships and get you on the same page, avoiding divorce and helping you to renew your vows.
Simon Elliot Simon Elliot is Managing Partner of 4xi and has spent his career globally working with organizations to win better, retain better business through establishing the principles of TRUE NORTH© Strategic Partnerships and Growth Academy.
Ed Snowden has 40+ years of experience leading strategic partnerships, retention, and growth with FORTUNE 500 companies. Ed is also the co-author of 4xi's TRUE NORTH© Strategic Partnerships and Growth Academy.
TRUE NORTH© Strategic Partnerships & Growth Academy has been created on the foundation of decades of experience working with large organizations globally, winning better and retaining better business.
TRUE NORTH© is focused on helping sales and retention teams and is divided into 6 modules of in-person or virtual training and coaching, including:
1. TRUST: The foundation of Strategic Partnerships
2. PORTFOLIO: Assessing your current portfolio of business and/or opportunities
3. STRATEGIC ACCOUNT PLANS: Critical information into an actionable framework
4. COLLABORATIVE SOLUTIONING: The principles of solving client challenges
5. ARCHITECTURE OF PARTNERSHIP: How to set the stage for Strategic Partnership
6. GROWTH LEADERSHIP: Personal development for growth leaders
The 4xi team has decades of experience designing and implementing Strategic Partnership frameworks and strategies to help businesses win better, retain better business.
To learn more about TRUE NORTH©, email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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4xi Global Consulting & Solutions is a team of talented leaders from both the client-side and service provider side creating an impact in the Human Experience (HX) for people at work, in education, rest, and at leisure.