FINDING NEW VOICES
DEFINING NEW GENRES
There are certain aspects to business– and our ability to embrace and exploit them successfully -that we all take for granted. Partnering? I think we’re all guilty at some point of assuming we’re brilliant at partnering, pointing to the number of successful business relationships we’ve harnessed, confident in our ability to persuade and enthuse. We tend to believe ‘partnering’ is a byword for social skills, selling or ‘talking a good game’. Even if we do understand the basic tenets of partnering, many of us think it stops with securing a partner, forgetting the ‘ship’ aspect. Strategic partnering isn’t simply signing a deal on the golf course or bonding over power lunches, but neither does it mean taking the human aspect out of business and focusing purely on hard, quantifiable targets. Whether you’re a huge global organisation or SME start up, if you get the processes in place and commit to them, strategic partnering can bring your business untold success.
Publishing has given me a unique insight into partnering, and more to the point, the benefits that can be achieved by partnering effectively. My career has been founded on creating hundreds of ‘partnerships’ with a vast array of individuals and organisations, primarily in an editor/author relationship, but also in essence with every single reader who buys one of my books . Surely by signing and publishing so many books over a 20 year period, and creating a series of working relationships to develop each project, I must excel at partnering? I thought so initially, because like many I gauged my partnering success on completing a set range of business tasks, ideally to the benefit of my organisation rather than the partner’s, and eschewing long term opportunity for short term gains.
And that’s the real challenge, exceeding our assumptions that partnering is not simply working well with others to ‘do good business’, but an opportunity to seek extraordinary achievements that require commitment to a genuinely collaborative and strategic relationship. As noted in Luc Bardin’s Strategic Partnering, studies report that over 70% of business relationships fail over time and less than 10% deliver to or above original expectations. In fact having the privilege to work with Luc on Strategic Partnering was my wake up call to the potential of partnering. Since then I’ve come to assess my own approach to partnering in an effort to understand just what can be achieved when one goes beyond a simple ‘me first’ strategy driven by short term, self-focused goals.
That was the key for me. I began to put more emphasis on the power of collaboration, of creating shared goals rather than just personal ones, and moving from an ‘I’ mentality to a ‘We’ strategy. This can be achieved first and foremost by breaking down each prospective partnership into its integrated component parts – and recognising that all partnerships require a disciplined and rigorous approach. Yet just as vitally, every partnership is unique and requires a bespoke, tailored strategy and response. It’s vital to look at the partnership in a practical way, deciding the what and the how and ensuring the partnership is not simply a beginning and an end all in one, but becomes a consistent, committed, systematic essential of everyday business.
So it can be perceived as a hard, practical science. You can create a toolkit and an organisational framework for partnering success, but it still requires a human element – THE human element – to succeed. Leadership, communication, collaboration, dedication, energy and enthusiasm, knowledge – they all play their part. And the unique strength of every partnership remains the experience and the engagement of the people at the heart of it. That is why collaboration, true collaboration, can transform every potential partnership. Joint goals, empowered strategic choices, agile responses and shared commitment, allow and support the creation of a clear mission plan, and to navigate towards success.
Do I think it can make positive changes? It already has. I’m so convinced that partnering, true strategic partnering, is key to business – and life – success, that I left my paid director role in an organisation and set up my own independent publishing house. Why? So I can put partnerships at the centre of every project. So I can empower collaboration at every stage of a relationship. So I can put care at the forefront of my business and mean it. So I can ensure every partner, and every partnership, has the opportunity to reach their full potential. It’s a challenge, a positive one, and one that I’m relishing. The company’s ethos is to treat every single project, and every single producer, as unique. No production line, no cost cutting, no templating of ideas or product, approaching and assessing every idea individually and tailoring everything in the process to each project’s needs. This is about shared goals and working together to drive each project’s success. That is why, like you, I am now a proud member of the strategic partnering community, and I look forward to letting you all know how it progresses!
Matthew Smith, Founder and Director, Urbane Publications Limited