Irma Becerra is president of Marymount Universitya comprehensive doctoral-granting university known for its innovative curriculum.
Partnerships between organizations have always been a great path to business growth and success. From creating new partnerships to strengthening old ones, there is so much to gain for all involved. Successful collaborations often involve partners coming together who can complement each other to drive positive change.
When needs are identified and met, organizations thrive. Take, for example, when companies and universities come together and realize mutually beneficial benefits. Students determined to bring their skills and talents to an innovative work environment can meet the needs of companies looking to diversify. Business partnerships can lead to phenomenal opportunities for students, allowing them to grow and develop their talents. Companies gain access to smart and innovative talent for growth and success. To say that such arrangements are win-win scenarios is an understatement!
Here are a few things to remember when your goal is to develop mutually beneficial relationships.
1. Start by understanding the potential partner’s organizational needs.
When I meet leaders who might be good partners, I ask questions to clarify their needs. Do they have specific concerns in these economic times? What are their talent and skill needs? Such questions open the door to candid conversations that have the potential to solve the biggest problem of the day: securing talent in a tight workforce. Obstacles are opportunities, and finding solutions means securing work for others.
Active listening is essential if the goal is to really understand if you can add something valuable to another organization. Interacting with other leaders and listening carefully to their concerns and concerns can reveal what they want and whether you have the resources to meet their needs.
2. Recognize and proactively fill talent gaps.
Leaders today often face significant challenges in attracting and retaining talent, and the loss of valued employees brings the added threat of destabilization. No industry is left untouched by the headache of securing talent and filling skills gaps that are lost when workers leave their jobs unexpectedly. Organizations thrive when they are optimally staffed with dedicated and productive employees, all working towards achieving common goals. Filling newly open positions can therefore be daunting when employees resign abruptly. Things can get tricky quickly in these scenarios.
A big advantage of collaborating with other organizations in lean times is that it can be an excellent way to fill talent gaps. For example, organizations that want to form well-educated and highly skilled teams often seek partnerships with universities to tap into the skills of eager students.
3. Face-to-face meetings build trust.
While video and phone calls will suffice once you’ve established a solid working relationship, I’m a big fan of face-to-face meetings in the early days of building business partnerships. My logic in this matter is simple: eye contact and personal interaction go far in building trust. Once you’ve identified an organization or company that you think would be ideal to work with, I recommend requesting an initial face-to-face meeting.
Communication is essential. After all, there’s too much at stake to risk mixed signals or misunderstandings that often occur when people message back and forth. Also, meeting a potential partner where they do business often provides insight into an organization – a good thing when considering a partnership. Although I have a hectic schedule, I often meet potential partners off campus a few times a week.
These meetings are often enlightening and give both parties a fresh perspective on things. Another benefit of meeting face-to-face is that a simple discussion on one topic can lead to other ways of working together – something that doesn’t often happen through email messages.
4. Don’t drop the ball – always remember to follow up!
We live in busy times, which is why it may take several follow-up calls or emails to get the ball rolling after a first meeting. Sometimes a short and polite email to ask where things are can help things move in the right direction. As discussed in a paper I contributed to on interaction technology, building trust between organizations requires the management of commitments between entitieswhere each successful completion of commitments increases confidence among those involved.
Feel free to start with a small initiative. Large partnerships between organizations can arise from the smallest initiatives. Sometimes building momentum takes many interactions, time and multiple meetings. A simple agreement to support each other’s efforts in a shared initiative can lead to years of mutually beneficial partnerships. It may also be necessary to convince prospective partners that the arrangement will be mutually beneficial. An enthusiastic email outlining what you expect to achieve can take away a lot of unnecessary worry.
5. Identify the right people from each organization to work together.
Once you’ve established a partnership, connect the right people from each organization to keep the momentum going. For example, I saw excellent results when an organization’s chief human resources representative joined one of my deans in the trenches with actionable goals. Leaders need to step back and let their people do what they do best to grow the partnership. If things get stuck, a quick email asking for an update can keep things from getting too far off track. I find that a simple email along the lines of, “How are you?” or “Where are we on initiative?” may be enough to ensure everyone is on the same page and progress is being made.
I have also found that leadership integrity is paramount in successful inter-organizational partnerships. Building the relationship is just the beginning – the real work comes down to communication, consistency, keeping promises within the agreed time and showing up in the partnership with respect and consideration.
Forging mutually beneficial partnerships between organizations can be a boon to business. Prioritizing growth through collaboration with equally strong partners is a proven way to achieve business success. Leaders have much to gain and more to share when they partner with organizations that want to grow together.
Janice has been with businesskinda for 5 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider businesskinda team, Janice seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.