• Dynamics Matters Podcast: Ep 14 - How to build a commercially successful partnership

Dynamics Matters Podcast: Ep 14 - How to build a commercially successful partnership

With special guest Richard Wills, Partner Development Manager at Microsoft.

This episode covers:

✓ How to find the right partner

✓ How to drive continuous value out of a partnership

✓ Why you should be looking for a partner


Michael Lonnon – 00:04

Welcome to the HSO dynamics matters podcast, your regular Sonic dive into the world of Microsoft technology related matters, and much more besides. I’m Michael Lonnon, and today I’m joined by Microsoft’s partner development manager, Richard Wills. In this podcast, Richard explains what it takes to find the right partner, and why you should even be looking in the first place. He then covers what it takes to successfully nurture and manage those partnerships for the long term benefit of all involved. So grab a brew, sit back, relax and enjoy the show.

Michael Lonnon – 01:16

Work harder or work smarter?

Richard Wills – 01:22


Michael Lonnon – 01:26

When it comes to working smarter versus working harder, obviously HSO’s relationship with Microsoft is fairly close and we like to think that it’s a fairly smart built relationship and partnership we have. But in your opinion, Richard, what do you think makes a good partnership or makes for a good relationship?

Richard Wills – 01:49

There’s probably a couple of bits to this. I think it starts with the end result. It’s probably important to say that actually, it’s acknowledging, that the end result is slightly different for different parties. So it’s being clear on what you want to achieve out of it. And then I think if you take it back a stage, it’s being really clear on what your engagement looks like, what either side is on point for, what you’re good at. And I think just having an open attitude to say, you know what, the best way to be successful is to be really quick to recognise each other’s kind of skills and experiences. And that’s where it will come from. Because that’s the core of everything we do. We’re on the same page, and we’re aligned with it. But at the same time, we recognise what each other has from a kind of objectives perspective and where we want to get to.

Michael Lonnon – 02:46

It’s about understanding people’s strengths or weaknesses isn’t it? Because the different parties, as part of the different partnerships, will come with their own approaches to things, their own way they look at things, and their own strengths and weaknesses. But the value is in combining those things isn’t it?

Richard Wills – 03:02

Yeah, there’s probably like a million and one different quotes from different people who said various bits about partnerships, and you’d have heard loads of stuff from various business leaders on it. The quote that I probably would most often refer to is the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, which I had no idea who was responsible for that. But it turned out it was a guy called Aristotle who’s obviously older than anyone. I tried to put it in my simple brain, I said, it’s a little bit like a football team, that you can be really good at taking corners, and you can be really good at heading, but you can’t take a corner and head it in at the same time. And so it’s just understanding that you need everybody and you need the skills from different people to do that.

Michael Lonnon – 03:44

Great analogy. And why do you think it’s important? I mean, I guess many people listening to this podcast will have their own opinion as to why creating those sorts of relationships that last are mutually beneficial, but in your opinion, why is it important to have a good relationship or a good partnership?

Richard Wills – 04:01

I think customers look for solutions now rather than products. And it’s very rare that a solution can be provided exclusively by one organisation. And so I think the idea that in order to come up with that solution that empowers, and enables that customer is made up of different parts. So in order to get there, you have to have partnerships and relationships in place. Because unless you have that, you won’t be able to provide that solution. And that for me is the core bit to remember, that’s where the different parties add different things, to that outcome and the solution for that customer.

Michael Lonnon – 04:46

Yeah, it fits well with your football analogy, it’s the some of the parts. That’s how you create value at the end. There’ll be listeners to the podcast thinking, well we’re trying to build our business out, or we’re trying to find new additional relationships and partnerships, how do they go about, in your opinion, finding the right partners?

Richard Wills – 05:08

If you look across the channel, you’ve got some really big to really small organisations, and some of them almost actively recruit or try to acquire partnerships and that can make it programmatic. If you make things too programmatic though, you’re probably missing the core of it, which is really trying to understand what that partner is about and what they do. And if you base it on certain criteria, you could miss the key ones. If you’re thinking, how do I get started, it’s probably opening your eyes to think about stuff you’ve not done before. It’s about thinking how you join things like, like commerce groups, and how you get involved from an industry perspective. And by doing that I think you start to meet and build those relationships and those partnerships, without actively thinking about it. Sometimes the partnership itself comes later. So it’s also having patience. Just because I met someone on this day, doesn’t mean a week later, we’re going to go into a partnership, and we’re going to achieve this number of things in the first six months. I think it’s a case of saying, pick the right partnerships at the right time and be aware that you can’t necessarily force these things. And so patience is key I think in that.

Michael Lonnon – 06:38

Do you think partnerships are often stumbled upon? HSO has recently engaged with a company called Agilisys so we can go to market in the local government and public sector because we have technical expertise, but not quite the industry expertise. But that didn’t come about via a forced kind of search for a partner per se. Often in partnerships you stumble across them. They’re not an accident but sometimes they are.

Richard Wills – 07:20

Well, and I think the point that’s important in all of that is when we go back to that idea of creating amazing solutions for customers, it’s what your specialism is, and if you’re telling me that you’re brilliant at absolutely everything, I’m very pleased for you, but I’m also slightly, slightly dubious on it. And that’s what, you know, that’s that bit of saying actually, what are we really good at and what someone else very good at and how do those two things piece together, and when do they piece together at the right time. And the HSO Agilisys partnership is one of those perfect examples, that you found that real niche and that real area for opportunity. But you know, to go back to what you said at the beginning, you can force things. You know you put like a cadence of well we need to speak every day or every week or whatever we need to do. And by doing that, you’re sort of trying to force it too quickly. I think it’s also recognising that at certain points in that relationship, there will be times when there’s a lot going on, and you’re talking all the time, it’s really exciting. And they’ll be times when maybe there is less going on, and it’s just trying to find the right sort of cadence for you that you’re comfortable with the way the relationship works and you trust those people you’re working with.

Michael Lonnon – 08:28

And is that kind of cadence building, is that part of how you maintain kind of the relationship and partnership into the long term? Because the value of partnerships is often months and years away, so is that how you can maintain value?

Richard Wills – 08:43

Absolutely. In my personal experience, probably coming into the role that I do now is at the beginning I was thinking I’ve got this new set of partners that I want to work with, and I really want to help them, and I really want to do things. And there’s almost this like sort of knee jerk reaction of oh we’ve got to do all these things, we’ve got to get meetings booked in. And it’s that sort of appreciation and learning that sometimes you can’t force things, and that you need to be able to sort of go up and down and pace yourself as things go along. But then the other part that’s important is it’s also about having a long-term view as well as a short-term view. And it’s not about what do we need to do in the next four weeks or what we do in the next six months and what do the results look like, but asking what’s the long-term objective of this partnership and where do we want to take it? So at any point in time, everyone’s really, really clear on what you’re trying to achieve and how the short term stuff sort of fits as part of that long term goal.

Michael Lonnon – 09:38

And what’s interesting is to think about and consider also is it’s not about finding where the gaps are in terms of technical competency or industry expertise. It’s also about personalities of the individuals that are managing those relationships. You’ve also got to find the nuances in how people behave and how they react and how they respond in different circumstances. Because that’s equally or probably the most important part of maintaining that relationship isn’t it that partnership for success?

Richard Wills – 10:10

A very long time ago, I started in finance. From a professional perspective you’d find some people who were just amazing at the way they could build and construct and report on numbers, right. But what they couldn’t necessarily do was find the way to effectively communicate that to a commercial audience. And it’s almost that same example of again, it’s not just in terms of what your skill is on paper, but also just understanding the way people work and bringing those two bits together, like a functional competency with a commercial knowledge and awareness. And it’s those pieces of intelligence that don’t sit on a piece of paper that are inherent in the way we behave and act.

Michael Lonnon – 11:00

Bill Gates once said, our success has been really based on partnerships from the very beginning. And this statement is true for any business anywhere. Achieving commercial success is as much down to the partnerships you make, as it is in what you do or how you do it. And Richard believes the basis of a good relationship is formed by understanding, at the very beginning, what the end result looks like for all parties concerned, because the end result is often different for each. And once you’ve understood what that end result looks like the relationship can move forward with a mutual understanding of where each party wants to go. I hope you enjoyed the podcast. You can find more interesting episodes such as why your analytics is lying to you, why you cannot succeed with technology alone, and how to create an agile business at www.HSO.com/dynamics-matters and until next time, take care of yourselves.

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