Saturday, December 02, 2006

Effective partnering

I'm a big fan of the writer Marcus Buckingham. He has a really great eye for important simplicities the rest of us overlook. His specialty is business writing and he gets to the big picture stuff very effectively.

His earlier book, First Break All The Rules, is excellent. So is his most recent book, The One Thing You Need To Know.

Seriously audacious title, and Mr. Buckingham delivers.

I would not think of summarizing this book because he does it best: Find out what you don’t like doing and stop doing it.

Don’t just take away that summary, however. The development of the arguments leading to the conclusions are as important as the conclusions. Read/listen to this book.

In the course of supporting his thoughts, I think Mr. Buckingham caught one really important idea poetically.

"Effective partnering is the quiet secret of the successful"

My wife and partner, Mary, and I ran a really fulfilling enterprise as partners for 25 years. Solved problems for customers, raised the kids, paid the bills. Mary has been the go-to knowledge worker of our current enterprise since its inception. However, she and my daughters have made it abundantly clear that if a third request is ever made, no jury would convict.

My current biz partner Dave hobbles on water. I think that Dave is the most creative industrial designer in the world, working in our field of expertise. Dave would likely not go to print ( I hope ) with what it’s really like working with me as a partner, but it’s indicative when he says that he’s like DC current to my AC.

Effective partnering. I really like that phrase.

Partners don’t necessarily have to share the business with you. As you consider paths for new or emerging enterprises, consider building your business model around a particularly great vendor (have backups B and C in place please). Perhaps you can partner with an especially great set of customers. Your enterprise can partner with anyone you think may move your model forward. In this part of your enterprise life there are no rules.

In one section of The One Thing You Need To Know, Mr. Buckingham discusses (without using the exact term here) the partnering that should emanate from great managers. Their highest task is to find what’s unique and great about each person reporting to them and build a partnering strategy to put those strengths into play for the common cause. I've always tried to do this.

Partners certainly don’t have to be in the same space with you in this day and age. I looked up an older post from May 13, 2005 that’s about remote partnering, and grabbed a piece from that:

"My current day job is based on the best remote partnering relationship I've ever been blessed to participate in. My friend and business partner Dave lives and supervises manufacturing of our equipment in the next state over, Illinois. We headquartered the biz in Wisconsin where I live and work. By planning our enterprise around this circumstance from the beginning, it feels as though we're just a cubicle away most of the time."

Can partners go bad? More likely than not. Doing enterprise with a partner is not dating. It’s raising kids together. Think through your choices very carefully.

Also be aware that creating great partnering relationships is best made up from slow motion, planned steps, including measurable metrics. This is the kind of stuff, done right, that can turn into the enterprise equivalent of love.

How do you find great partners? I met Mary at Shorty’s Bar in Winona, MN. Hell, I don’t know. Look for help. Trust your gut. Hedge your bets initially then let go as much as you can to the partnership. Great partnering is like making angels in the snow. The impression you make on each other can be art. There is just nothing better in the enterprise world as when great partnering works.

I'm deeply thankful to all the great partners that I've worked with over the decades. I also thank Marcus Buckingham for an elegant, important contribution to this subject that you should carry with you, friends:

“Effective partnering is the quiet secret of the successful.”

Visit Marcus Buckingham’s site

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