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When Life Happens to Partnerships: Stay Sharp Episode 28

By April 26, 2024May 7th, 2024No Comments

In Episode 28 of Razorleaf’s Stay Sharp podcast, Partnerships – When Life Happens, Part 2, hosts Jonathan Scott and Jen Ferello continue the conversation they began in Stay Sharp Episode 24: Choosing the Right Partner. This time around, they specifically address what happens to partnerships when scope changes, relationships change, and things go differently than expected—whether that’s good or bad.

As the topic’s expert, Jen—whose experience with partnerships spans more than three decades in the 3D, CAD, and PLM software spaces—notes that though the podcast and the industry in general primarily talk about technology, who organizations choose to partner with is critical. “People are still going to play an important role … and as difficult as technology is, sometimes it’s a whole lot easier than people,” she says.

Partnerships, Jen and Jonathan note, come in all forms—they might be between tech companies, a company and a customer, a company and a reseller, two teams, two individuals, etc. But every partnership has people at its core. Every partnership, Jen explains, is about “leaning into someone else’s expertise or experience to augment your own and to achieve a particular objective.”

The Best Preparation

Jen offers tips for how to deal with a variety of partnership situations, stressing that preparing for inevitable changes starts with a good foundation. Referencing Episode 24, she and Jonathan reiterate that choosing the right partner starts with knowing yourself or your company, including what expertise or support you need, where you want to go, and what your timeline, budget, and reason for doing it are. In addition, partners should be sure to align core values and maintain open communication.

To those recommendations, Jen adds the idea of proactive maintenance on the partnership to ensure both parties are going in the right direction. This means effectively project-managing the relationship between partners, including having a roadmap with success clearly defined. Most importantly, have checkpoints established when partners have conversations about how a project is going. Jen says, “If you have a known objective, a shared goal or shared vision, and you’re checking your progression against that, you’re more likely to notice when things are going off track.”

Open communication is the key, Jen and Jonathan remind us—and even if you didn’t start a partnership with clear communication, it’s not too late to start, to sit down with your partner and get on the same page about direction, timeframes, checkpoints for evaluating progress, and more.

Another key to maintaining successful partnerships that Jen and Jonathan discuss is being flexible. Like anything in life—a family vacation is the example Jen gives—no plan or roadmap is ever going to go perfectly. You’ll have to make adjustments, though Jen also cautions there should be a balance between flexibility and the discipline to stay the course, rather than going off the rails and changing the plan in response to every minor piece of input.

Partnership Maintenance

Preparation, especially open communication and flexibility, will be crucial when disruptions to a shared goal occur. The most common is probably changes to scope, whether because a vendor can’t deliver something as promised, the customer needs something else, your business shifted and so your needs change, or any of a hundred other reasons. If you’ve laid the groundwork, you can have a clear and direct conversation with your partner about how to make modifications to the plan and partnership that will suit both sides. Moreover, Jen adds, “once you get through the hardest spots, reset your expectations based on what you went through together, how your partner reacted, and what you’ve been able to achieve.” This could mean more or less frequent check-ins, it could mean resetting goals or reframing scope—just don’t let go of the connection and communication you have.

And if or when the bump in the road is more than a minor issue, Jen has more words of wisdom. First, assume positive intent. Don’t play the blame game, because “it doesn’t matter how you got there. What matters is you have this problem in front of you now, and let’s fix it.” And second, once you get through it, do a postmortem to figure out how not to get there again.

Learn More About Handling Partnerships

The full podcast episode offers more details on how to prepare for a partnership, how to deal with challenges, and even how to handle things if you ever have to dissolve a partnership before a project’s end. (Hint: Don’t burn bridges!)

Check out Stay Sharp Episode 28: Partnerships – When Life Happens, Part 2 and join us each week for a new episode.

Catch the first episode on partners on Stay Sharp Episode 24: Choosing the Right Partner

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