GainingEdge Advisory Issue #4 – 14 May 2020

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Partnerships and collaboration: now even more essential

In February 2019, the BestCities Global Alliance, which is managed by GainingEdge, published a news article on the benefits of partnership. Just over a year later, the importance of working more closely together is even more pronounced as a strategic response to COVID-19. The following advice is based on some of the content from that article.

·       Why are partnerships so important?

Partners enable an organization to be able to do things they would not necessarily be able to on their own. They expand skillsets and offerings, bringing new and different abilities and strengths to your organization, and can lead to value creation. The beauty of a partnership is working together to complement one another and to build something creative and fresh that one may not have otherwise been able to do themselves.  

As COVID has so deeply ravaged our industry, partnerships are a smart way to leverage financial and human resources between organizations. Forming solid partnerships now will also help when times are better. 

·       How can an organisation find the right partner for them?

Finding the right partner starts by understanding your organization’s needs and areas of strength and using that as a basis to define where the best fit lies. What is it that will make you as an organisation prosper? The best way to identify a suitable partner is to find those who are complementary to what it is that you are doing. It is often not the similarities, but the differences that can make the collaboration flourish – meaning that even the more unconventional pairings should not be ruled out when considering a partnership.

When considering a partnership, you need to find a party that is willing to put in a similar, if not an equal, amount of effort – which takes shape in various forms, including funding, time, knowledge, and manpower. And, think about a new partner in the long-term, as it can take a fair amount of time to get things working the way they should.

·       What are the key benefits of a partnership?

The key elements where partnerships can benefit an organisation are, like anything in business, improving the bottom line, whether its financial or otherwise, increasing sales and enhancing reputation. Those benefits can be reaped through:

  • Extending resources: rebuild business resources during times of scarcity, and combine forces to tackle marketplace opportunities
  • Reducing risk: address the great deal of uncertainty that exists by investing with others to spread out risk
  • Knowledge sharing: exchange practices, skillsets, and expertise across organizations to help address unprecedented challenges
  • Brand association: collaborate amongst previous competitors to present new and dynamic brands to potential clients

·       What common challenges need to be overcome in partnerships?

Challenges often arise when establishing a partnership. One view to consider is that ‘no partner is more important that the other’. Regardless of the scale of the organisation, it is helpful to avoid a hierarchal partnership, as each organisation involved should be bringing equivalent value to the collaboration. Another potential challenge is being able to agree to a clear vision and goal of the collaboration. Tolerance, flexibility, and trust are critical, as is recognizing every partner has strengths and weaknesses – as well as understanding and overcoming cultural or operational differences.

Consider your expectations. One cannot expect the other partner to commit to doing something you would not do yourself. Finally, you must have champions within the leadership of your organization for the collaboration. Establishing a partnership adds another layer of complexity and the benefits of this should be communicated and shared.

In closing

The devastating impact of COVID on our industry means that every organization on the value chain, be it on the demand-side or supply-side, need to consider new ways of doing business including working with competitors or non-traditional partners. It is our contention that forming partnerships will help organizations build greater resiliency for now and the times ahead.  By sharing risk, knowledge and resources, the extensive disruption caused by COVID can be less intense. 


“Partnership is not a posture but a process – a continuous process that grows stronger each year as we devote ourselves to common tasks.”
―  John F. Kennedy


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