Q: Why is it advisable to pay attention to partnerships?
A: Partnerships are at the core of good business-consulting practices. We can’t perform our work without focusing on nurturing partnerships. Whether the focus is local, regional, national or global, consultants represent themselves and the organization they work for, even if it’s their own business.
The consultant and the client organization develop an explicit contract containing the scope of the work, expectations and deliverables. However, what lies beneath the surface are certain expectations of behavior and, most importantly, a common mission. With time, these partnerships become loyal, dependable and trustworthy allies.
I will attempt to explain three partnership strategies defined by Edmund Burke in his book “Corporate Community Relations.”
The first strategy, building relationships of trust, is not achieved easily and quickly; it requires time and preparation. It also requires knowing oneself and the company one represents well. More preparation brings greater chances of establishing trust. This is especially important when dealing with foreign countries or different cultures.
With the second strategy, managing community or organization issues and concerns, one must listen, collect both factual and qualitative data, and understand how to deal with conflict and the stages of conflict management. In addition, one must pay attention to readiness of the organization to implement changes or move on. Are the consultant and the organization reaching understanding at the same pace and time? Are they both ready to deal with the issues and concerns? Do they need more time, information or greater understanding?
The third strategy, using community or organization support programs to build trust, is not equated with money or profit, but shared mission, vision and values. Are there any activities the consultant and the client organization can engage in together? Whether a fundraising activity, social event, or doing pro bono work, is there something that aligns the above with passion?
These strategies and the consultant’s creativity create competitive advantage.
Marcella de la Torre, EdD, teaches courses at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business.