In the spirit of our recent global partnership with Microsoft, our own Dave Schwarber, Managing Director of Cincom Manufacturing Business Solutions, discusses the risks and rewards of business partnerships.
Partnership to me is anytime two groups or two people get together to do something they can’t do on their own. In our organization, we’ve got partnerships for technology, we’ve got partnerships with vendors, we’ve got partnerships with customers, all to do different things.
What do you look for in a partner?
We can’t supply everything the marketplace needs by ourselves, so there is a need to partner. Who do I look for to partner with? I want to partner with somebody I can trust – somebody I know who has integrity, somebody who I know isn’t going to turn and bolt the minute we have a problem, because every partnership has problems. I want somebody who is going to anticipate my needs. I want somebody who is going to be very proactive. I want somebody that is going to be responsive when we have issues. But I want somebody who is going to work with us to produce something that together is much better than we can either do separately.
Do partners have to be vendors?
Most of the times our partnerships are either customers or vendors. We partner with vendors because we don’t have a solution that covers the breadth that our customers need in a solution. They are complex businesses and they need a wide variety of solutions. So a lot of our partners are vendors.
What are the risks and benefits of having partners?
Some of the risks, I guess, you have to be careful with your intellectual property. You don’t want a partner that’s going to all of a sudden come up with a product that does what your product does, because they have kind of siphoned off everything that you have been telling them about your product. But I think there is a lot more value to be gained than there is risk.
How do you approach a potential partner?
Again it varies on what the partnership is about. We may be partnering with somebody for one deal. We may be trying to partner with somebody for a solution that we are going to take to market over the next 10 years. And depending on what kind of partnership we are looking for, we will deal with it a little bit differently. We know that they have their issues, we know that we have our own issues, we both want to protect our intellectual property. So we go into it with the understanding that this is going to be a negotiation – that there is going to be a lot of discussion. It is not going to necessarily be something that happens very quickly. It might take several weeks to several months before you can really make one of these happen. But you just have to be going with open eyes and open ears, and listen as much as you talk.