In this two-part series, we’ll addresses why organizations select you to be a strategic partner. 

Over the last 30+ years working in the consulting field we have seen many clients come and go.  Some no longer exist while others have gone in different directions.  However, we are fortunate to have maintained many partnerships for several decades.  More recently we have had several technical and biotech startups reach out to us looking for strategic partners.  This got us wondering, what qualities make up a good strategic partner.  Based on why our partners engage us, we’ve come up with four qualities: 

  • Experience and Diversity of your staff 
  • A blend of discipline and flexibility 
  • Superior execution and client support 
  • Making the client look good 

 

Experience and Diversity of Staff – one of our mantras is “I don’t have the answer to your question, but someone in the company does, let’s get them involved”.  A staff that is diverse in experience and background creates a pseudo think tank that can be tapped into for a wide variety of reasons.  We get a variety of “fill in the blank” requests. 

  • Did you ever work on (fill in the blank)? 
  • Do you know how to (fill in the blank)? 
  • Are you willing to (fill in the blank)? 
  • Can you train us to (fill in the blank)? 

The ability to quickly and efficiently answer questions, provide insight, and guide clients is one of the key attributes that keeps them coming back and seeing your company as a true partner.  Recently, I had a call from a client to discuss an approach to a rather complicated research project.  We spent over an hour talking through the nuances of the study.  During the discussion, I pulled in a few of my colleagues.  We finished the discussion and helped them to move along to the next phase of the research.  This call may or may not result in work for us, but in the long term we have further solidified our position as a go to resource and strategic partner.  We know that building these types of relationships are good for our business in the long term and we view them in that way.  Plus, we love to problems and help me build a road-map for solutions.  At the end of that call our client said, “This is why I call you; you help me work through challenges and bring new perspectives to my challenge.”  Whether you’re a company one or of thousands, bring your experience and expertise into your relationships, know when and who to tap into for support, think long and be open to new ideas.  This will go a long way in solidifying your strategic partnerships. 

A Blend of Discipline and Flexibility – in the course of any challenge, you may need a disciplined, tried and true approach.  Additionally, there are times when creativity and new thinking is required.  Having the ability and skill sets to address both challenges is another component of building stronger partnerships.   

In the course of our business we are called upon to conduct research that is routine.  We are known for our skill in the Spectrum Method of Descriptive Analysis (or check out our YouTube channel).  This is a method that follows a strict set of protocols.  In many cases that is what our clients require.  However, there are times when that level of detail is not required.  A client may just want to know how their product compares to a competitor, and they have little time or money to find the answer.  We use our base understanding of product categories but modify our approaches to answer the question within the project constraints.  In these cases, we find that coming to the table with several options show that you are willing to be creative, flexible, and invested in the client’s success.  For example, in the above scenario (product comparison to competitor with time and money constraints) we would offer a descriptive profile that only looks at key attributes with a limited report.  We might also offer a Snapshot, a modified version of a descriptive profile that using fewer panelist and focused more on attributes that define the differences and similarities among samples.  We may also offer to go to the bench with the product development team and evaluate products side by side with them to help direct the development.  In either of these cases we are showing our partner that we are willing to try a variety of approaches to help them achieve a goal. To be clear this is not a wishy-washy approach to do whatever it takes to land the sale.  We always stick to sound scientific principles and are very clear about the strengths and weaknesses of each approach.  Our goal is to give our clients what they need, which might not always be what they originally ask for.  

The balance of discipline and flexibility has become very evident in our current Covid19 crisis.  We operate panels across the country which utilize people to evaluate products.  This has created new challenges for conducting research.  Currently the balance has tipped to being more flexible.  We need to protect the health of our staff which means we can’t always conduct the standard methods.  Social Distancing requires us to limit interactions among our panelists, panel leaders, and scientists.  Our creativity and flexibility have kicked in.  We are finding new ways to conduct virtual panels, or we’ve modified methods so they can be done with smaller teams.  Lasting partnerships are galvanized in times of crisis, where we can help each other solve problems through creative approaches. 

Continue on to Part-Two of this series!

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