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It takes two to tango

A good business partnership takes two — a willing and committed client and a willing and committed supplier. A partnership approach is a key element in the way we deliver digital projects.

Juliane E 20 September 2019

What is a partnership?

Business relationships are increasingly about being a partner rather than a supplier. At Salsa Digital we truly aim to be partners to our clients because we know caring, understanding, empathy and generally supporting our clients will help us achieve outstanding results for them.

But what does a good partnership entail? There are lots of things that people who’ve been married for decades tell you about successful relationships: you should feel safe; you should always feel like you can be honest; you should give your partner the benefit of the doubt; you should trust your partner; you should encourage your partner; you should work on the relationship and not take it for granted; you must be fair; you must be name a few.

These things are true in business relationships as well as personal relationships. We need to ask ourselves: Are we doing what it takes to be a good partner to our clients? What are we doing well and what can we improve? As in personal relationships, sometimes we do well and sometimes there is room for improvement, but we will always, always try.

But it takes two

What sometimes gets overlooked is that both parties need to be committed to the partnership — just like in personal relationships. The most successful projects I’ve been involved in are those where the client is also asking themselves: Am I being a good partner? A true partnership can only happen when both parties are understanding, fair, considerate and do their best to work towards a successful relationship.

As a project manager, if I feel the client is fair and wants us to succeed in the project as much as they want to succeed themselves, it makes it easy to love that project even more. I’ll go out of my way to honour their trust and ensure that their fairness and kindness is rewarded with outstanding results.

As a project manager I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum. I’ve worked on projects that have been difficult because the clients only wanted to look for flaws and would never praise, despite the fact that the project was actually going well overall and we were working really hard to achieve the desired outcomes. It’s devastating — not just for a project manager, but for the entire team.

I’ve also seen the other side, clients who understand they play a big role in delivering a project on time; prepare for meetings; thoroughly think through requirements; are committed to commonly agreed timelines; and understand the impact of scope changes.

For these reasons, it felt like they were part of my team and I felt like I was part of theirs. Doesn’t that exactly define a partnership?

It’s in those partnerships that you’re not afraid to say “Hey, I’m sorry but this is taking a bit longer than expected.” And you know you’ll be met with understanding rather than blame. It’s exactly this kindness and trust and the benefit of the doubt that will inspire me to achieve great things, to fight for my client and to make sure that we continue to be partners and be successful together. It’s also great when you’re working in a true partnership and share the wins — go to a client and say: “Hey, this took less time than we thought and so we’ve got an extra 140 hours of development time left...let’s implement additional features.” This actually happened recently. In a true partnership you share the wins, too.

We all need to be accountable for our actions but just like personal relationships, things don’t always go to plan — the unexpected can happen in business relationships on both sides.

One situation that arises regularly is clients having to delay their project start unexpectedly. This can have a big flow-on effect for us, because we usually have our resources allocated with tight schedules, moving from project to project full time. A four-week delay from a client is difficult for us to juggle. But we understand that curve balls happen so rather than being rigid and saying our resource allocation and related charging starts on the agreed date, we shuffle our resources to accommodate the delay, and make sure the client isn’t charged for time they're not using.

Partnerships truly work both ways. It takes two to work together well, but it’s also rewarding for both parties involved in a true partnership. So I ask you:

Please be my partner.

Please give me the benefit of the doubt.

Please work with me.

Please help me understand you.

Let’s do this together, because together we conquer whatever challenges come our way.

Let’s tango.

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