Are You a Good Partner?
Chief Financial Officer
In 1970, a decision maker would have said “I need an expert to tell me what to do.” Today, it’s “I need experts who understand my business, who I want to work with, and can get me a solution.” There has been a shift in the professional services business paradigm and because of it, being a good partner is more important than ever before.
Technology has made it easier to learn and become informed. People are educated. Clients are educated. Service providers are educated. When looking to start a new project, we seek more than just hiring the team with the most impressive portfolio. It’s about finding the people who best fit what we want to do – it’s about finding good partners.
Partnership is not a new concept. But, it is the key organizing principle of our time and it’s time your professional services firm takes notice.
So, what is partnership exactly?
Partnership happens when we:
Work to seek common understanding
Put common interests ahead of factional interests
Do the “right thing” because we owe it to each other in service to our common interests
It’s this third point–doing the right thing–that extends partnership from simply a good behavior to an organizing principle and ultimately into a cultural attribute of an organization. If everyone in an organization does things because they owe it to each and not because they have a stick at their back, it makes life easier. You just trust that people are trying to do the right thing and getting it done.
Why is partnership an organizing principle?
In short, differentiation. There was a time when professionals had a monopoly on knowledge, information, and skills. Now, you come into contact with people who are self-educated and have endless opportunities to learn from the Internet. People no longer seek firms out as an exclusive purveyor of knowledge. They are coming to you because they need collaborators and they need somebody who can help solve their problem. The value of work comes from getting to the optimal solution, which requires seeing the challenge from your partner’s perspective.
In my grandparent’s age, the world with regards to professionals was driven by awe. Their world was one where they trusted implicitly. Ministers, teachers, doctors, lawyers – they knew what my grandparent’s didn’t know and they took them for their word, case closed. Even my parents are reluctant to ask questions of their doctors. Me? When I visit a doctor, I am asked what I think the problem is. We talk about it and then collaborate around a solution. I find that more productive and satisfying.
This is the paradigm for all professional services now. Most professionals and clients want, as much as anything else, to work with good collaborators. And the ones who embrace this set themselves apart. Plus, partnership extends to everyone– clients, employees, and colleagues. As a firm, you seek to attract the right kind of employees and the right kind of clients to join your organization. With partnership set as an organizing principle you can expect your partners to do the right thing because it is embedded in the culture of the organization. And, that’s attractive to clients and recruits.
I probably didn’t tell you anything you didn’t already know, but I hope to have laid the framework for a guiding principle you can take back to your firm. Of course, implementing a culture of partnership has its challenges. In my next post, I’m going to explore obstacles to partnership and what you can actually do to be a good partner.
Does your firm embrace collaboration and partnership already or do you have room to grow? Tell us more in a comment below!
Author’s note: This post is the first of two and is based off of my keynote presentation for the BST Global PowerUp 2016 Annual Users Conference.