The Fifth Essential: Service Partnering
Doing business with a small town flair!
The key objective for any company is to show a profit. A culture-driven company however, strives to make a difference in the lives of all their constituents in the course of this.
In our company, we have no desire to serve simply as a vendor to our clients for pay. The key question of course is how to make a positive difference in their business during the engagement with us (hopefully long-lasting)? Our company began with administrative service offerings. Recognizing marketing failures from brochures and mass mailings requested by clients we began lead-generation services. This was hugely successful for several years and we then began seeing diminishing returns for our clients. We shut that down completely after the 2009 meltdown although at the time it was our company mainstay. It would have been easy to rationalize getting paid for a stellar service provided regardless of client results but that is not us. When clients aren’t getting paid for their investment in our service we have no desire to continue, nor should they.
When prospective clients insist on contract negotiations, it is surprising how quickly this moves past the (attorney) “deal killers” when there is mutual understanding on the partnering track.
Now what about suppliers? We expect the same from them. Granted it can be difficult when dealing the necessary behemoth types such as large banks and phone companies. The solution there is to partner with an advocate on the branch level. We have changed suppliers on a few occasions when they begin acting like a vendor. This has resulted in deeper relationships with the new partners. Partnering is like doing business with “small town flair”, where everyone knows on another, in a broader business world. When your only supplier contact is a sales person paid on new sale commissions, it is time to bail!
We mentioned in a previous post the need to take care of your suppliers as well. Remember partnering is a two-way proposition. We go out of our way to meet with suppliers (um, business partners) individually over lunch and bring groups of suppliers together sharing our current business plan. This often pays huge dividends for both.
A third component of this pillar is partnering with internal customers as well as external. Keeping in mind that a key role as company leaders is making sure our direct reports have the tools needed to do their jobs well. This gives us the responsibility to be a servant to them in this function.
The bottom line here (hey, I am an accountant so am allowed to use this over-used cliché) is that we are servants first in all aspects of our business life.
“Can I help you carry that?”
READ MORE: If you like this article, you should read “Boundaries in Business”
Jim Mullaney is President and CEO of Edoc Service, Inc. a “Fast 55” virtual company based in Cincinnati, Ohio.