PR Briefing: Strategic partnerships and new directions

Strategic partnerships come in many forms, but all have a commonality — they bring together partners who benefit from the relationship. And in these economically challenging times, strategic partnerships might be a way to position your company as more attractive to customers.

The benefits can be financial, supportive or both. They can be between companies that might offer related and connected products, or they might be between former competitors.

Take, for instance, a company that sells pellet stoves. That company can form a strategic partnership with a company that sells pellets. They both have the same customer base, and by collaborating they can offer their customers the convenience of both products together. By co-selling, the companies can eliminate duplicative sales costs, advertising costs and offer the advantage of “one-stop” shopping.

What can competitors bring to a strategic partnership? They both have strengths in the same area, but different perspectives, experiences and contacts. By combining their efforts, customers now benefit from a stronger skill set, more experience and, hopefully, a better product.

There are many good reasons to seek out partners, but there also are many pitfalls that have caused good partnerships to fail. It’s easy to overlook the potential stumbling blocks and not conduct due diligence in an effort to solidify an alliance, hoping it will improve your business during a particularly stressful economic period.

Over the summer, my company formed a strategic partnership with a competing company – Bisson Barcelona LLC. We acknowledged that individually we had great strengths to support our clients, but together, with our combined knowledge, experience and niches, we could offer our clients a wider array of services and the combined talents of two staffs. So far, it has proved itself quite beneficial.

But I suspect part of the reason things have gone well is because we took some time to “try each other on for size.” Specifically, we didn’t rush into a relationship that didn’t fit.

We considered things like our backgrounds and philosophies. Traci Bisson and I both wanted to create agencies that were responsive to clients and afforded us the opportunity to work on a variety of exciting and innovative projects.

At the same time, in 2000, we were both new moms and needed flexibility to work and enjoy our new families.

Over the eight years we’ve both been in business, we’ve adopted and implemented core values that are essential to our businesses. We each see our employees as the backbones of our companies. Both Bisson Barcelona LLC and StoreyManseau LLC have been recognized for our innovative employee benefits, which include flexible schedules, benefits for full- and part-time employees and reimbursement for professional development, among others. Both offices offer kid-friendly environments and employees are allowed to bring their children into the office, if necessary.

Take your time

Companies exploring a potential partnership often overlook the area of corporate culture. This, more than almost all others, is the key piece that can make or break a partnership.

In one instance, a company I worked for had a leadership team that was quick, decisive and nimble. The company they tried to partner with had leaders who thrived on bureaucracy and were very process-oriented.

You can imagine that it didn’t take long for both sides in this partnership to get frustrated. And employees at both companies were confused, anxious and lacked direction because the leadership teams were sending conflicting messages.

Obviously, it dissolved in the end. And the failed partnership was a costly lesson that took resources and precious time away from advancing the companies and securing more customers.

I advise our clients who are embarking on strategic partnerships to take their time.

Try out a small venture together and see how it feels. Communicate with your staff and customers, letting them know what you’re doing and what your expectations are. Keep your eyes and ears open and make sure that this partner is one who shares your values, beliefs, philosophies and business practices.

Most importantly, make sure that you have an exit strategy until you are absolutely sure this is the right partner. And, once you’re found that “right” partner, take your relationship as far as you can!

Laurie J. Storey-Manseau is principal of StoreyManseau LLC, Concord. She can be reached at 603-229-0278, or