There are countless examples of individuals, groups, businesses and countries working in partnership. Some have been more successful than others; however holistically, it is generally accepted that working in partnership is a good idea for all concerned.
As a general notion, a working business partnership is a collaboration in which risks, resources, skills and knowledge are shared for the mutual benefit of those involved. The advantages of this seem clear, yet many organisations are reluctant to attempt the process or to fully engage if they do, the question is why?
One major issue is that organisations are inherently secretive. In part, this is linked to the fear of competitors gaining an advantage, which is understandable. However, there is also the issue of control, as well as a cultural ethos of having to do everything in house, even if the business does not have the infrastructure and/or resources to meet a high-end outcome. Consequently, a greater understanding is needed of why many organisations, especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs), would benefit from collaborative working relationships. Following is an illustration highlighting some key benefits of working in partnership:
It is acknowledged that working in partnership is not suitable for every venture, nor is it suitable for all organisations (including some senior managers and leaders), some of the issues that can arise when working in partnership are:
- Governance is not considered, and accountability between partners is not identified
- Too much competition exists between partner organisations
- Clarity is needed, yet confusion rains
- Decision making is held up due to top heavy approach
- Partnership work is not distributed evenly, and in association with associated benefits
However, it would be remiss not to consider the opportunity, especially in view of the possible benefits to the organisation as a whole. A working partnership can yield opportunities that an individual business would not be able to access alone, and whilst the concept is not restrictive to a business model or size, it can be particularly beneficial to SMEs, due to the practical nature of sharing risks and reaping rewards.
To actively engage in this process, businesses need to be aware that there are many aspects to effective collaboration; these can be varied and specific, depending upon circumstance and situation. However, in general terms consideration should be given to:
- Open and honest communication between parties
- Mutual respect, especially relating to experience, skills and knowledge
- Trust and fairness between parties
- Effective and accessible support as and when needed
If these components are embraced, and a business truly buys into the concept and benefits of working in partnership, they will be able to:
- Deliver joint services of co-ordinated packages to customers
- Jointly tackle issues
- Reduce the impact of organisational fragmentation
- Bid/tender for new opportunities/resources as part of a collaborative approach
Arguably, working in partnership is a necessity for many businesses today, especially if they wish to effectively compete in a hypercompetitive market.