Strength in numbers: the power of strate­gic part­ner­ships

Ah­mad Itani on how col­lab­o­ra­tions can boost busi­ness

Gulf Business - - CONTENTS - AH­MAD ITANI

In 2014, tech­nol­ogy be­he­moths and archri­vals Ap­ple and IBM made the shock an­nounce­ment that they had en­tered a strate­gic part­ner­ship.

De­spite their fraught his­tory, each of the part­ner com­pa­nies has wit­nessed sig­nif­i­cant growth as a re­sult of the col­lab­o­ra­tion, in­clud­ing the launch of 100 new en­ter­prise apps and deals worth $1bn for IBM in 2015 alone.

This al­liance mir­rors other suc­cess­ful part­ner­ship sto­ries in­clud­ing those of Star­bucks and Barnes & Noble, and Spo­tify and Uber. The growth th­ese dy­namic duos have achieved hand-in-hand con­firms that the ‘two heads are bet­ter than one’ adage con­tin­ues to be a tru­ism in busi­ness.

This is very rel­e­vant for com­pa­nies in the GCC, where re­la­tion­ships have played a sig­nif­i­cant his­tor­i­cal and cul­tural role in do­ing busi­ness. This cul­ture of mu­tual trust con­tin­ues today and in the UAE col­lab­o­ra­tion un­der­pins many gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tives in­clud­ing the 'Year of Giv­ing 2017' and ‘Dubai 10X’.

My own com­pany – Cicero & Ber­nay Pub­lic Re­la­tions – has em­braced this cul­ture by es­tab­lish­ing a broad, syn­er­gis­tic net­work of af­fil­i­ates to bet­ter serve our clients across 14 mar­kets. In my ex­pe­ri­ence, the ben­e­fits of­fered by such part­ner­ships, – in­clud­ing shared ex­per­tise and in­sights, en­hanced client ser­vic­ing, in­creased scope, and the power of a shared vi­sion – can be sig­nif­i­cant cat­a­lysts for growth.

Shared ex­per­tise and in­sights

In our in­creas­ingly com­plex and glob­alised world, spe­cialised ex­per­tise and re­gional in­sights are in­valu­able. In pub­lic re­la­tions the tra­di­tional model has grown be­yond be­lief over the past 20 years, tak­ing us global and ex­pand­ing our team to in­clude so­cial me­dia teams, brand out­reach and in­flu­encer com­mu­ni­ca­tion ex­perts and trend in­ter­pre­ta­tion spe­cial­ists.

This ex­pan­sion can be wit­nessed across all in­dus­tries in this part of the world, where the pace of change is ac­cel­er­at­ing rapidly. To thrive in this environment, com­pa­nies need new ex­per­tise and in­sights. Strate­gic part­ner­ships pro­vide this, which is par­tic­u­larly help­ful when com­pa­nies are un­able to im­ple­ment such trans­for­ma­tion in-house.

Al­lies in a suc­cess­ful part­ner­ship should be com­mu­ni­cat­ing clearly and con­stantly to ben­e­fit from their pooled knowl­edge. For ex­am­ple, when C&B is de­vel­op­ing cam­paigns to reach mar­kets out­side of the UAE, we con­sult our af­fil­i­ates to gain the ex­tra in­sights for our tai­lored cam­paigns. This ca­pa­bil­ity of­fers clients sig­nif­i­cant added value.

En­hanced client ser­vic­ing

Part­ner­ships should above all enhance the com­pany's col­lec­tive value propo­si­tion to clients. Spo­tify and Uber’s part­ner­ship is a clear ex­am­ple, as it has turned sim­ple taxi rides into road trips by al­low­ing cus­tomers to stream their own playlists – an in­spired com­bi­na­tion of two ex­cel­lent ser­vices that has cre­ated a dis­tinct of­fer­ing.

This sort of col­lab­o­ra­tion drives growth by giv­ing com­pa­nies the com­pet­i­tive edge in a crowded mar­ket­place. Some of the most suc­cess­ful part­ner­ships have in­volved com­pa­nies that de­liver ex­cel- lence in ser­vice ar­eas, which are dif­fer­ent but re­lated – or bet­ter yet, ser­vice ar­eas that can be re­lated in an in­no­va­tive way. Part­ners that in­no­vate to­gether grow to­gether, and the way to lever­age this op­por­tu­nity is to ap­proach af­fil­i­ates with fresh ideas for pre­sent­ing clients with new ser­vices that are unique in the mar­ket.

In­creased scope

Part­ner­ships can give you ac­cess to en­tirely new mar­kets and cus­tomers. This is true of Ap­ple and IBM's part­ner­ship, which is partly based on strength­en­ing Ap­ple’s rep­u­ta­tion in the cor­po­rate sec­tor. It is also true of Star­bucks and Barnes & Noble, which drew on each other’s au­di­ences to grow their cus­tomer bases.

C&B’s strate­gic af­fil­i­ates have not only grown our re­gional pres­ence, but also al­lowed us to em­brace new ar­eas of our in­dus­try. To grow in this way, com­pa­nies must take a fresh ap­proach to iden­ti­fy­ing un­tapped tar­get au­di­ences and search­ing for po­ten­tial part­ners they can of­fer mu­tual growth op­por­tu­ni­ties.

A shared vi­sion

No man is an is­land, and do­ing busi­ness alone in our highly con­nected world is a guar­an­teed way to miss ex­cit­ing growth prospects. There is an in­nate value in fos­ter­ing part­ner­ships based on a shared vi­sion, and dili­gently re­search­ing po­ten­tial part­ners is essen­tial for achiev­ing this. An align­ment be­tween the cul­ture and val­ues of the part­ner com­pa­nies is of equal im­por­tance to their shared busi­ness ob­jec­tives and ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

The UAE lead­er­ship en­cour­ages col­lab­o­ra­tion across all in­dus­tries and bor­ders and in this con­text, strate­gic part­ner­ships cre­ate a halo ef­fect, bet­ter­ing the in­dus­tries we op­er­ate in and thereby en­hanc­ing the na­tion’s econ­omy and global rep­u­ta­tion. The end goal is not just the cre­ation of a syn­er­getic net­work, but also the shap­ing of a whole new way of do­ing col­lab­o­ra­tive busi­ness.

Now is the time for a par­a­digm shift from ‘I am the best at what I do’, to ‘we are 10 times stronger if we do what we do to­gether’. Ah­mad Itani is the COO of Cicero & Ber­nay Pub­lic Re­la­tions

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