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Hurdles in Accepting a Vendor as a Partner

September 6, 2013 Leave a comment

Back in June, I had the opportunity to attend Dell’s Enterprise Forum in San Jose, California.  This multi-day event feature sessions and keynotes centered around Dell’s Networking, Storage, & Server portfolio.  One of the highlights was a customer success session with Amerijet‘s Senior Director-Technology and Information Systems, Jennifer Torlone.  Jennifer spoke on the challenges and oppprtunities she faced when joining Amerijet and the successes found in establishing and leveraging a partnership with Dell.

As I sat in the audience, listening to Jennifer, I wondered about my own organization’s experience with partners and vendors.  I would contend that many organizations have many vendors, but partners are typically few in number.  Often the delineation is deliberate, and focused on vendors and/or suppliers that are willing to provide additional value beyond products and services.

In the midst of this Jennifer’s presentation, I also wondered about the hurdles associated with elevating a vendor to a partner.  At this point, Jennifer offered a nugget that caught me off guard.  Jennifer explained how what ever business problem arises, she takes this problem to her partners and invites them to participate in the process of finding a solution.  She went on to say that she doesn’t attempt to filter the problem or select the partner that receives the information.  She commented that if the company is a partner, then they should have a seat at the table.

This idea was insightful and revolutionary in my opinion.  Part of the surprise comes from my own bias and understanding which has functioned as a filter and dictated which company I present business problems to.  Her point was simple, you may think you know how to solve the problem, but any partner may have more resources and sub-divisions that could potentially trump any preconceived notion you might have.  In short, I may be short changing the partnership.  I may be the hindrance that has limited the impact and success of the partnership.

I returned from this trip inspired to re-evaluate how I interact with vendors and partners.  I recognize there are risks associated with such an approach, but at the same time there may be big wins that aren’t being capitalized on.  My preference would be to acknowledged to facilitating a win versus passing up an opportunity because I didn’t think a vendor or partner could address the problem.

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