Focus on success Featured

8:00pm EDT October 26, 2008

When Brad Dennison joined nFocus Technologies Inc., he needed to boost revenue for the slow-growing business.

The business solutions provider had a lot to offer and boasted a healthy client base, but it needed to counteract its economic stalemate. By implementing a plan to work with customers who shared lateral growth goals, he produced new products while learning from other experts, allowing all parties to grow.

“Linking the company name to another industry requires careful planning with familiar and reputable companies,” Dennison says. “Keep in mind your goals and choose wisely.”

With his plan in place, the managing director initially drafted a few companies with the same ideology and then gained momentum by adding more than 40 partner companies to his arsenal.

Smart Business spoke with Dennison about how to grow your business by partnering with your customers.

Q. How do you decide which customers to partner with?

The goal is to create a virtual product development team that builds the next generation tool. You can choose a partner company in any industry or business that has good leadership, employee retention plan or ideas to increase revenue, then you implement their knowledge into your company to suit your industry.

All partners benefit as the product is tailored to each of their needs, benefiting from each other’s strengths. The process includes a little risk-taking. All partnerships may not be as profitable as initially thought, but to keep on doing the same thing while expecting different results is the definition of insanity. Ultimately, the plan propels success.

Q. How do you approach customers with the offer of a partnership?

First, you must find a customer that has similar growth goals, is respected in their industry and has something you can learn from. Make them an offer that also serves as a contract explaining the details of the partnership.

Give them special incentive pricing on your products. Once an agreement is made, be sure to keep the lines of communication open. Any company can make an agreement incentive by emphasizing that the partners will be learning from other experts by sharing their knowledge.

Q. How many customer/partner companies are necessary to make the plan work?

Just one partner customer doesn’t generally work. Normally, a team of three to five makes the most sense so the shared ideas lead to a better product, not just a common product or solution for one of the partners.

The partners benefit as they get the product on the ground floor and fashion it to their needs while we all profit more. Knowing your own goals will help decide who you choose to be in your network. However, ultimately, quality of partnerships overrides quantity.

Q. How long does it take to begin benefiting from partnerships?

It depends on how aggressively each party pursues the goals. It starts with a meeting of decision-makers in each of the partner companies. It can be after one meeting or after six.

From start to finish, developing a new tool can take anywhere from three to nine months. At a meeting, all partners must come to a mutual agreement on procedures so all expectations are met on each side.

The partnership plan is about building relationships, so digital or phone communication doesn’t cut it. We need to learn their business, and they need to know our people. Our goals are focused on what is needed to make our companies more successful on the segment of business being covered.

The main partner provides feedback on the best practices and how they can leverage these within their existing foundation. Each partner walks away from meetings with information they can implement in their company.

Q. How do you get employees involved with the partnership plan?

Employees’ understanding of the sequence of steps on the journey to success will deliver maximum business benefits. They are your greatest asset. Pass as much down as possible to them, so you can move forward as a company leader.

A matrix organization with employees dedicated to strong teamwork is intricate in the function of partnerships. Your employees will be implementing the tools produced from partnerships, so it’s vital they understand the company’s goals and are managed.

Keep them informed of plans with newsletters, e-mails and meetings. Make sure they understand why decisions were made so they’re on board. The key is to follow up with the goals and reinforce them.

Like other aspects of the business, employees need to work as a team regarding implementation of partnership products.

HOW TO REACH: nFocus Technologies Inc., (317) 546-0869 or www.nfocustechnologies.com