6 Tips for Creating and Maintaining Strong Business Partnerships

Susan E. Fisher, VP Business Development, specializes in producing experiential environments at GES...

Partnerships are what make business thrive; that means two-way relationships where all parties bring something to the table. Many of our clients know GES for all of our great trade show work, but there’s a side of our company that many aren’t familiar with, which is where I come into play.   My team creates experiential environments for clients such as Nike, Verizon Innovation Center, Monumental Sports & Entertainment (Washington Capitals & Wizards), and Dr Pepper, to name a few. More often than not these projects are a collaborative effort between my team and the client’s design team, architectural firms, or interpretive design firms.

After years of experience working with a diverse group of clients and agencies, I’ve come up with six important factors for creating and maintaining strong business partnerships that can help any business grow:

1. Listen Before you can even begin to offer input or support, you have to understand your partner and/or client.  By clearly defining the vision and mission of a project, you will quickly determine if all players are working toward the same goal.   Look for the “spark” that energizes and motivates each partner about their business and then work to communicate that in your solutions.

2. Define Roles This not only ensures accountability, but clarifies exactly who is doing what.  Make a point of keeping roles in a written document and share them with your internal team.  Lack of clarity around job roles is a major source of frustration and disappointment in many partnerships.

3. Share Needs and Expectations Everyone has their own reasons for creating and maintaining a partnership, which is why it is important to communicate.  Find out what your partner expects from you and share what you expect from them and be sure that all anticipated deliverables are included in any contractual documents.  This will allow everyone to move forward together toward the common goal.

4. Focus on Strengths The key to a long-term, successful business relationship is to focus on and support the strengths of the individuals within the partnership.  Everyone likes to be recognized and supported. Period.

5. Pow-Wow Often Have frequent reviews that include the entire team to ensure the projects are on target to deliver as promised.  Reviewing and updating these goals together, with documents that state the goals in writing, can help to keep everyone accountable. Frequent reviews also allow the team to quickly solve any foreseeable issues before they throw the project off track.

6. Proactively Solve Disagreements Disagreements are bound to happen with any large project with lots of moving parts - often from miscommunication.  The way you handle these “bumps in the road” will set you apart as a dedicated partner and professional; it’s one of the keys to keeping a healthy partnership. Make a rule to approach your partner when there’s an issue and work to create solutions that make both sides feel that they’ve been treated fairly. Always keep lines of communication open, giving constructive criticism and reinforcing the positive.

Here  are a few examples of recent projects that have received rave reviews from our clients because of our willingness to be good partners and place value on long-term relationships (feel free to read each case study for more information):

• Verizon Wireless recently opened their Innovation Center in Waltham, MA and the design firm that created the environment hired us to fabricate many custom components to help showcase their strategic partners and industries served. Read more.

• Monumental Sports & Entertainment hired us to design and fabricate custom Loge Boxes in the Verizon Center in Washington, DC, home of the Washington Capitals and Washington Wizards. These semi-private seating areas are upgrades to standard seating and include catering and personal TVs. Read more.

• Dr Pepper hired us to fabricate their sponsor activation at the new Dallas Cowboys’ Stadium in Arlington, TX.  Jerry Jones told us that it was the best sponsor activation in the stadium and that we “raised” the bar. Read more.

What do you value most in a business partnerships? Share your opinions in our discussion on LinkedIn!

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