We have all heard the common phrase, “two heads are better than one”, but what exactly does that mean? I asked our friend Google for a definition of the idiom and the one provided by Merriam-Webster Dictionary says: “it is used to say that it is easier for two people who help each other to solve a problem than it is for one person to solve a problem alone”. Not exactly rocket science but not many could argue against the statement. In fact, many of the greatest inventions, technologies, companies, and even songs and bands were only successful or made famous because two people (or two groups) came together to solve a problem and create something special. Since I now spend most of my time in the Retail and Consumer Packaged Goods industry, the silly but delicious example of two differences coming together to create one of the greatest inventions known to man is…peanut butter and jelly (my go-to when scarfing down a lunch in between, or often times even during, meetings).
The coming together of two or more people is the starting point for creating a partnership. However, it takes effort and authenticity to actually build one that is strong and sustainable. One might assume that building a strong partnership in the tech world is purely about complimenting one another’s strengths and weaknesses, driving revenue for both parties, or simply “putting the customer first”. These topics are all true and important but should be considered as “table stakes” for any partnership.
After spending over a decade working in both the technology services and product worlds, I have learned firsthand how this is true in the tech industry, and it is becoming even more evident in the world of data and insights. Take Snowflake for example: as a cloud first data platform, they literally don’t exist without at least one of the top cloud infrastructure providers such as AWS, Google, or Microsoft Azure. Snowflake is now killing it in the partner world –they’ve created one of the most powerful data sharing platforms we’ve ever seen – and hundreds of partners (and customers) can benefit from that. But just because two partners come together doesn’t necessarily mean they can stay together and have a mutually beneficial partnership in the long run. Thanks to platforms like Snowflake’s, partnerships have become the norm across the industry enabling organizations to monetize their data, fill gaps, achieve revenue goals, unleash new marketing channels, and most importantly: bring enhanced value to businesses across the world. The value and purpose for building a strategic partnership with another company is solid and proven (if done selectively and consistently). But what is the point if it is not authentic? Throughout this blog I will share what it means to be an authentic partner and how 3 key ingredients can help a partnership grow and strengthen over time. Think of it as peanut butter, jelly, and bread. When added together, the ingredients complement each other to create an incredible combination.
Ingredient 1: Transparency
At the start of all partnerships, and especially once an NDA has been signed, it is incredibly important to kick things off with a high level of transparency. As partners, we owe it to one another to showcase and demo our products or services, pull back the layers of our technology to highlight differentiators and reveal current gaps, review Go-To-Market philosophies and strategies, highlight relationships with other partners in our ecosystems, and even provide insights on company values and culture. Ask yourself: why do I need this partner and why do they need me? This question should be discussed transparently and even put down on paper to create a clear path forward. For lack of better comparisons, the discovery phase of building an authentic partnership is much like dating. You might as well throw things out there openly during the first few dates or you could end up wasting each other’s time. If there is something there, but you haven’t completely defined it yet, keep trying because it is not always a perfectly authentic partnership at first sight. Be yourself, be proud of what your company has built (or is building), keep an open mind, and be transparent. It is likely that you can’t accomplish what you’ve set out to do without the partner, so be honest about your gaps; share them…and your partner may help you unleash an incredible new offering to the market. And most importantly, both partners must be on the same page and embrace a similar level of transparency – or you’ll quickly learn that the partnership will not grow as strongly as hoped for.
Ingredient 2: Collaboration
You might be thinking, collaboration or good communication should be considered table-stakes for forming a strong partnership. Yes, you can toss in the common best practices here including cadence calls, QBRs (quarterly business reviews), enablement sessions, and scaling your Go-To-Market strategy and relationships across every line of business (i.e., Partnerships, Marketing, Sales, Product, and so on). But keep in mind that we’re talking about building authentic, long-term partnerships – which isn’t something that happens overnight – so it seems worth listing as a key ingredient. Collaboration takes consistency, effort, and when appropriate: candor with kindness. There is a time and place to listen, go with the flow, and avoid what some may consider “confrontation”, but candor with kindness is what can take your partnership to the next level. It can spark an idea for evolving your partnership. It can save you and your partner both time and energy from going down the wrong path with your Go-To-Market strategy. And if you do it correctly (meaning your partner knows it’s being done with the best of intentions), it will most certainly build the trust that is needed for the most successful partnership. Think deeper than collaboration just being “communication”. It is a behavior that hopefully comes naturally, but one that can also be built with the right amount of time and energy.
Ingredient 3: Creativity
Last but certainly not least (because this is probably my personal favorite and perhaps the number one reason I came to work for Seek): Creativity! Without it, the Seek Insight Cloud would not be combining point of sale data and demographic data to help CPGs identify opportunities for expanded distribution…or building actionable Insights using weather data to help the Retail and CPG businesses predict out of stocks when leading up to a major hurricane or another severe weather event. When one partner has an idea, the other may have an even better idea to enhance it!
Think outside of the box and see every obstacle or challenge along the way as an opportunity for an incredible solution or an opportunity to get your creative juices flowing. Creativity can help you overcome contractual challenges, product gaps, and help you bypass many other roadblocks you will surely run into. When you take ingredients one and two seriously – and sprinkle in some creativity…you have a recipe for a powerful partnership. You can identify new ways to unleash value to your customers through innovation – through your partners. As Steve Jobs once said “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. Never let go of your appetite to go after new ideas…” In other words, we should never stop learning and we should always try new things. We can always build something better – and I truly believe building something better is only accomplished through authentic partnerships.