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Odd Couple?

Is it a marriage of convenience or one of mutual benefit and understanding? Well, let me assure you that this blog has not decided to venture into marriage counseling or marriage broking – those are slippery slopes! My question has to do with something this writer is competent to speak about … Channel Management. What are we looking for while choosing a partner to help us create and develop markets for our products and services?

Here are a few pointers that could help you in the search:

1.       Research

It’s important that you study the potential partners before you make the first approach. Speak with people who know them, try to discover as much as you can about their business practices, financial situation and dealings with customers and employees. What has fuelled their growth story and how are they placed currently? Are they on the rise or on the wane? Would they gel with your organisation’s culture and philosophy?

2.       Are you happy with each other?

After you have done the background check, it’s time to meet. I would recommend more than one meeting and in different settings. Get them to visit your office, after an initial meeting in their office. Talk to them in a neutral setting too. Find out whether you will be happy doing business with them? Are they too rigid or even too flexible – both aren’t good. You need partners who are ready to make a stand on certain matters. Do you enjoy associating with them and do they associate with your organisation’s philosophy and culture? This is essential or things can rapidly spiral out of control. There has to be mutual appreciation and genuine interest in associating with the other party.

3.       Expectation setting

Quite early in the relationship there is need to place your cards on the table. No relationship will go far if there are hidden agendas and if both parties are unwilling to share what they expect from it. Tell the partner what you expect from them by way of resources, commitment, effort and time. It is also essential to establish what your organisation will offer to the partner in return for his or her investments. Don’t postpone it for later and don’t ever deal with it in an ad hoc manner. Clearly spelt expectations will ensure that there is no trouble later on – best to put this on paper to avoid any misunderstanding or lack of clarity later on.

4.       Is there respect on both sides?

Another important factor – both sides need to be aware what the other party is contributing to the relationship and that needs to be acknowledged and appreciated. When you think that the other side is not adding value it’s best to say it upfront and ask for correction. Are you willing to accept their point of view even when it is hugely different from yours and it makes business sense? Carrying frustration or disrespect in silence and permitting the relationship to deteriorate is not useful to either side. It’s best to part ways if you see no future in it.

5.       Getting set for the long haul

It’s won’t be milk and honey all the way -the honeymoon phase won’t last forever. No! I am not digressing – still on the subject. Life has to go on and business needs to be done – there would be ups and downs; the odd tough statement made and harsh decisions to be taken when the situation warrants. If the dialogue and debate has always remained within the confines of business priorities, a bit of pain and unpleasantness has to be accepted. The idea is to look at the situation objectively and take action that makes business sustainable in the short, medium and long term – both parties need to understand and accept it.

6.       Can you accept that nobody is perfect?

You may not get exactly what you are looking for – there could be the occasional niggles; at those times just confirm whether it makes business sense to maintain this relationship and remember you are not perfect either. At times it may seem attractive to find another partner instead of pushing ahead with the present one. That’s when it calls for a proper assessment of the situation – what value did the present partner bring to the table and what more do they have to offer? Are you doing your bit to keep the relationship on a strong footing? How easy is it to get into a new relationship without upsetting business equilibrium and will the new partner provide a significant upside? Check whether you keep the present relationship going while looking at the new relationship for a totally new market niche.

7.       Are they sensible with money?

Is your partner wise with his investment – is he spending when and where it’s needed? Is he providing enough to ensure business continuity and growth or is he removing cash from your business to fuel other activities. You need to bring the concern to the partner’s notice and clearly state your expectations.

Isn’t it strange that a lot of this can be applied when you search for a life partner too – Hey, I didn’t say that and let’s not deviate from the core issue.

Business has to be conducted in a fertile environment with a partner who understands your needs and is willing to play an active role in the growth story; at the same time you have to be willing to put in your share and contribute to the success of the relationship.

In sickness and health, in good times and bad … Oops!

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  1. G.Venu Gopal
    May 2, 2012 at 3:46 am

    Right road map for channel partner appointment. often Companies and prospective channel partners miss these points and rush to an agreement with the sole motive of generating quick money and missing out on the long term partnership value.

    • JayadevM
      May 2, 2012 at 9:38 am

      Hello, Venu!

      Thank you for the support. We have so enough real life examples, don’t we?

      Yes, misplaced priorities and get-rich-quick methods can’t be the principles for sound long-term strategy.

  2. May 2, 2012 at 5:35 am

    Oops indeed! Despite you initial disclaimer, this is very sound advice for someone contemplating matrimony too 🙂 I’m able to see the good sense in all these points but to be honest, I’m not sure that partnerships( matrimony or business) are contracted based on these very sensible principles!

    • JayadevM
      May 2, 2012 at 9:36 am

      Hi Raji,

      I just can’t get a laugh out of you … there is a Smiley in your comment, but that’s for your own joke!

      Thought you would speak about the infusion of humour … or what I thought would be funny! 😦

      Well, jokes apart – in spite of my veiled attempts to keep the two subjects apart there is a lot in common. Good relationships, business or personal, can only flourish on these foundations. Many relationships flounder because people fail to permit good sense to prevail and end up feeling miserable afterwards.

  3. Jamy
    May 2, 2012 at 5:58 am

    When in doubt, bring it to the table and deal with it; if partners, whether in business or personal life can’t do that, then work/live by yourself and watch while the rest of the world advance by leaps and bounds!!

    • JayadevM
      May 2, 2012 at 9:29 am

      Nice thoughts, Jamy!

      We need good people with us to make progress.

  4. Sandip Janardan
    May 2, 2012 at 10:59 am

    Excellent analogy & sure to get people thinking. The thinking and priorities (current and long term) would affect how the relationship progresses. The initial meetings /dating can quite often be a heady experience where one can get swept away .The key I believe is to appreciate that both have strengths and see how they can make a winning combination. The level of trust, readiness to make adjustments and patience levels can be other deciding factors. Earlier one was willing to work harder to make the relationship a success. Also important in case it does not work is having the decency to part as friends.

    • JayadevM
      May 2, 2012 at 11:56 am

      Hi Sandip

      Good assessment – and you have described it well. There has to be active interest on both sides for the relationship to succeed.

      Your inputs will help other readers too.

      Thank you for the support and look forward to hearing from you again on this page.

      Regards

  5. Ciju
    May 2, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    Now that I think back on my channel management days.. yes… a good channel partner relation and a good marriage share most of the parameters.. investing time.. respect for each other.. all cards on the table???.. lets say most cards on the table.. yeah.. lots in common.. well written Jaydev.. as usual

    • JayadevM
      May 2, 2012 at 2:49 pm

      Hi Ciju,

      Good to see your comment here.

      When we practice a discipline for a while and then do some reading on the subject we are able to relate our experience with the information gathered.

      Yes, time has to be invested to nurture and maintain all relationships at full health.

      Am glad you liked it. Best wishes

  6. yogeshgk
    May 3, 2012 at 4:58 am

    Excellent post!
    Many aspects of what you have articulated here holds just as true for a large company working with multiple internal partners. In the company I work for, we are forced to align closely with teams and partners who might not be a natural fit. Given the design constraints of intra-corporate relationships and the good/bad times that go with it, one is forced to stay within these bounds, bringing to mind the analogy of an arranged marriage that neither partner is supportive of.

    • JayadevM
      May 3, 2012 at 5:27 am

      Hi Yogesh

      You’ve explained it so well.

      Although I did not take into account the Internal Customer (or Channel, if I may); getting work done on that front calls for similar steps – research, setting ground-rules, understanding and relationship building.

      Yes, we have to work with disparate people, who may even be difficult to deal with (We all are!), and still get work done.

      Thank you for the visit.

      In the Corporate

  7. ram..
    May 3, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    jayadev,interesting guidelines.I think each organisation needs to customise its mission and vision for a niche in unique positions irrespective of the market or customer they operate in and with andinchoosing channel partners the care must be taken to ensure the partner aligns to the other partner’s mission and vision.

    • JayadevM
      May 3, 2012 at 5:22 pm

      Hi Ram

      Thank you for reading and for leaving a comment.

      Channel Strategy would come under Sales & Marketing and like you said the chosen partners should be aligned with organisation values.

  8. Raaj
    May 5, 2012 at 4:07 am

    Hi Jayan… excellent points. Sure that is good foundation to build upon.

    The only thing(s) I would like to add here is that…
    In most cases, this marriage/partnership is between two unequal partners/entities. In many cases, there will always be the (sometimes unreasonable) demand on the channel to perform at levels that they simply are not equipped for. This pressure further aggravates these smaller partner leading them to resort to unethical, illegal or unconstitutional behavior jeopardizing the reputation and business models of larger entity.
    It is not unusual for the partnership contracts to be drawn up exclusively by the larger entity and therefore these contracts are rather heavily loaded in favor of the larger entity. In most cases, that is justifiable too, but I have seen too many cases, especially in this side of the world where seemingly large companies simply pull the plug on a partnership where the smaller partner pours his/her heart and soul into the business and all they are left with in the end is about half and million dollar in debt and potential bankruptcy.
    Another fairly common occurrence that I see is also when a business sets up a sizable channel network and the one fine day the bigger entity goes out of business (for a number of reasons) and again the smaller partner is left holding the proverbial baby.
    Besides, the definition of channel partner(ship) is rather narrow and probably applicable only to certain kinds of business.
    Having said all that, I still believe that the fundamentals that you mentioned, the foundation of these business models can never be ignored and must always be kept in the forefront. That would be a good start.
    Cheers.

    • JayadevM
      May 5, 2012 at 4:30 am

      Hi Raaj

      Enjoyed reading your response. Yes, you have thrown light on a few major relationship and process related issues.

      The shortlisting process should tell the Principal how far a partner can go given his reach and financial soundness. If they stretch him beyond that something would give and it wouldn’t be a nice sound.

      About one-sided Channel Agreements – Its the same in this part of the world too. The bigger guy decides.

      Channel’s should learn to remain lean on inventory but find ways to move the product out much faster.- otherwise they will left with a warehouse full of useless stuff.

      Principals have a way of dumping by giving attractive baits – the partner bites thinking about the goodies coming his way but can’t find a way to push the stock out into the market. Greed can hurt.

      So we come back to choice of partner, defining the relationship, defining the goals … and it would make sense for the Channel Partner to do his bit of research before deciding – don’t be over-awed by the pitch and the name of the Principal

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