Whether you call it partnership, strategic alliance or joint venture, the coming together of two or more entities is partnering. Some companies partner with 1, 10's, 100's, 1000's or tens of thousands different entities. Partnering is aimed at expanding and growing the core business whether its building, selling or servicing.
Companies form partnerships to serve their customer's better, yes, but often times its focus is to expand revenue. In the imaging and printing industry, there are multiple sides of partnering with technology, processes and people which creates complexities of do it myself (Direct) or let's do it together (Indirect). It's a delicate balance with many layers.
The more layers, the more complex. The more complex, the more confusion. Confusion ultimately weakens integrity and trust. For example, many companies have both direct and indirect partners competing for the same customer. Yes, that's fair competition, however, the behavior, tone and decisions made to win do not always hold lines of integrity.
One of the companies I worked with, wanted me to sell direct and if that didn't work, then work with a partner. Is it good business practice to talk out of both sides of your face? No, I didn't like it, and my customers didn't like it either. In the end, the vibe of integrity ripples either away or towards trust. If you don't have trust, what do you really have?
Companies partnering with "clean" go to market strategies founded upon trust, transparency, and integrity are more sustainable in the long term. Here are a few ways I see the good, the bad and the ugly inside forming partnerships.
This past summer Ricoh Americas Corporation announced a new partner program called Ricoh Solutions Partner Program that includes 32 partners. Ricoh divides this polygamous clan into two categories including Premier and Specialty Partners. The partners were "carefully" selected based up their expertise, class, and scale which ultimately gives Ricoh more shapes to shift as it works with increasingly complex customers. The program is for both direct and dealer communities.
Overall, I give Ricoh's Partner Program a B. I like the fairness of offering their program to both direct and their dealers (partners) and I like the simplicity it conveys to the customer. It looks like a lot of work went into selecting 32 technology partners.
What I notice in the press release as well as the website was the word "carefully" three times. Shouldn't the Ricoh brand be strong enough to "cover" the partner program without having to overly emphasize how careful they were with selection? Wanting to ensure the partners are secure and stable is one thing, but the overuse of the word careful communicates caution is necessary. If caution is necessary is the core intent to sell more machines or provide solutions the work for their customers? Good question to ponder and figure out where they are coming from.
Otherwise, I also see this. First, reducing quantity will ultimately raise the quality. 32? Off the top, I see copies/duplicates. As the old adage says, less is more. And secondly, why the inconsistency or did I stumble across an old outdated site? During my search, I also found another site describing a Ricoh Alliance Program, I thought it was called Ricoh Solutions Partner Program? If these are two valid programs...then there is strength in communicating clear messages. Ricoh is one company...I know one name is key.
One of Ricoh's partners is Notable Solutions Inc. (NSi). Until recently, this company focused on scanning hard copy documents (scanner and Mfp's) to streamline document workflow processes. As announced on September 25th, NSi is introducing a productivity app to combine mobile document capture and secure electronic forms processing.
As far as partnering goes, when I first heard of NSi it was over a decade ago. At the time, they were partnered exclusively with one OEM. Now NSi is partnered with 10 OEM's. Did the lack of demand in the market or the lack of sales and skills of the single OEM cause the expansion? In my mind, both. Overall, their innovation and partner model is an A.
Partners are coming together and falling apart everywhere. Fast. Last week we heard about a software company closing its doors. Poof, it disappeared. Shortly thereafter, we saw their partners/alliances sending out letters to their clients describing the sudden disruption and proposed contingency plan. New partnerships were formed as a result. The pendulum swings and the resilient balance of business shifts.
There is so much more to be said about the good, bad and ugly of partnering. Partnering is a delicate force to be reckoned with that can yield multi-dimensional growth or destruction.
At Walters & Shutwell, we specialize in analyzing and managing communications, mobility and transformation.
What ways do you see sustainable partnering in your business?
(a few updates were made October 12, 2012)