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How partnerships can help Canadian businesses stay innovative and achieve long-term growth

How partnerships can help Canadian businesses stay innovative and achieve long-term growth 

Traditionally, business success could solely be achieved through entrepreneurship, company acquisition, and the harnessing of capital to fuel growth. In actuality, the journey to business success often does not take a traditional path. According to the Government of Canada’s business resources site, Canada Business Network, there are several types of business structures that can put you on the road to success today – as a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation or co-operative.

Business builders should think carefully about their options to determine which structure best fits their specific needs for both short and long-term business goals. Furthermore, while traditional strategies for achieving business success can still help keep a company in the black, my personal experiences have taught me that today’s leading-edge enterprises are more likely to find success in the long-term by establishing partnerships and alliances with complementary innovators and suppliers, rather than attempting to forge the path ahead alone.

As global economies shift, and Canadian small and medium businesses face challenges outside of their control—such as dynamic, foreign policy pressures like NAFTA and GDPR or world-changing events that can have a devastating effect on our natural resources— companies are expected to achieve more with less. Rather than reinvent the wheel each time a new technology or service is needed, more companies are looking to partner with like-minded businesses to help improve and drive efficiency in their own business processes and operations. For example, Toronto-based health insurance start-up League, partnered with RBC to expand its insurance offerings for the next-generation of digital users. The start-up’s nimble, customer-centric approach is attracting insurance carriers and brokers who understand what its customers want; partnering with a start-up helps these larger enterprises accelerate an oftentimes slow organizational shift to more digital and streamlined workflows.

Such an approach is easily said, yet not so easily done, as it requires creating partnerships that go beyond paper contracts and fixed deals. This is about building relationships that form the foundations of smart business.

To get the most out of partnerships there are several things to consider. From finding your partner, to signing on the dotted line and beyond, the following advice will enhance your knowledge of what’s involved and help you realize the amazing benefits of forming a business partnership.

Choosing the right partner for your business

The success or failure of any business relationship depends heavily on how well the partnership works. Particular effort should be directed towards ensuring the right relationships are formed. Businesses need to establish precisely what they are seeking to achieve from these relationships, whether it be expanding into new territories, providing new services, or discovering a new route to market. In an op-ed for The Globe and Mail, PayPal Canada President Paul Parisi shared his opinion on partnerships and emphasized that the most successful partnerships are those with a “shared goal” or “common purpose” that solidifies the business relationship in a mutually beneficial way.

Amazon Web Services is a good example where businesses don’t have to build their own hosting infrastructure. Instead of buying, owning and maintaining their own data centres and servers, organizations can now have access to these resources and other services on an as-needed basis. As a result, businesses are freed to focus their time on other activities that can drive growth and influence customer satisfaction.

Building on the foundations

Once you have a partnership in place with defined and shared goals, it is important to foster growth and set up a rhythm of checking-in on the status of the partnership at regular intervals.

While a contract might be signed and sealed, a partnership has a lot more scope to grow if all parties involved agree to, and execute on, a very specific and measurable action plan while continually providing feedback and share the what aspects of the partnership are doing well, and where there are areas for improvement. If there isn’t a clear action plan identified, the chances for success are drastically reduced.

Emphasis on flexibility 

With this in mind, it is also worth considering partnerships built around flexible contracts. This gives both sides the opportunity for adjustment of parameters set, enabling innovation, and a cross-pollination of ideas, which ultimately delivers more value out of a partnership in the long term.

The benefits of such as partnership usually outweigh any disadvantages. For example, sharing of contacts, supply chains, or the experience of how to break into new markets or arenas, you may not have considered before.  This could then be further expanded to develop small one-to-one partnerships, into group ventures, or even establish a community of companies, suppliers and customers working together.

Such a community could flourish into an ecosystem, leading to the sharing of products, services, and infrastructure, thereby creating a situation where everyone involved can benefit and support each other.

Gaining buy-in at the highest level

Whatever the size of business, and however lofty the ambition, partnerships can be strengthened and boosted by gaining executive sponsorship, as having the right support can bring experience, knowledge and authority to the forging of long-lasting partnerships.

Equally, having a clear line of leadership and ownership on both sides of a partnership can help spearhead its early success, with people taking responsibility to ensure a partnership expands beyond a contract and into a strong working relationship that promises to bloom over time.

Scratch beneath the surface of any of today’s prominent companies and you are likely to find a handful of partnerships helping to fuel that success. Companies can no longer afford to work in silos – taking influence, technology and resources and applying them to a successful business model not only makes good commercial sense, it’s a great way to meet customers’ changing needs. And in the ever more competitive business world, successful long-term partnerships are likely to be the difference between a company blazing a trail or fading into obscurity.

Jennifer Warawa, EVP – Partners, Accountants & Alliances at Sage.

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