What is a strategic partner?
First off there are three basic types of business to business engagement customer, vendor, and partners. The first is fairly self-explanatory, a b2b customer purchases products or services from your business. Conversely, a b2b vendor is a business you purchase products or services from. However, the more complex b2b engagement is a partnership because there are many forms of partnership. A strategic partnership has some clear characteristics to define this form of engagement.
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Transparency – unlike other b2b engagements there is full transparency with one another to most effectively further the business
Confidentiality – a good strategic partner maintains the highest-level confidentiality to protect the business being served for ever, not just during the working relationship. This is a huge asset to senior management to freely share the burdens of the business without fear of co-workers or outsiders reacting or leveraging fears and challenges that are exclusively for senior managements knowledge.
Experience – a strategic partner is experienced in senior management, entrepreneurship, and effective business strategy to foresee the challenges and understand the most effective actions needed to overcome them.
Personal stake – a strategic partner regards their partner as an integral part of their own success and takes personal stake in the success of their partner as they have a vested interest.
Highest ROI – partners have a unique advantage over vendors in that they can objectively assess the changes and activities that generate the highest ROI for your unique business.
Perspective – there is no stronger asset an executive can have than a partner that is not woven into the company fabric to offer clarity.
Loyalty – a strategic partner is a loyal business advocate that is highly motivated to maintain the relationship by providing more value than expected.
It is obvious for the reasons listed above why the most successful companies form strategic partnerships to grow, what is very important is choosing a strategic partner that will help your business the most. There are many ways to analyze a strategic partner, but the real gist of it is no matter how scary it seems you should go with your gut. You know your business and when you discuss your challenges with a strategic partner you will have sense of how well you will work with them. A good strategic partner for your business should be excited to work with your business and have a lot of challenging questions. They should be eager to learn what challenges your business faces and have a holistic perspective on solutions, because focusing on one function of the business over another is not a sustainable model. The bottom line is a strategic partner takes your success personally!