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Growing Talent Development Firms: The ABCs of Partnering, Part II


Wed Sep 26 2018

Growing Talent Development Firms: The ABCs of Partnering, Part II

In my previous blog post, I mentioned three important elements of a true partnership—the ABCs of partnering. These are what each of the parties has to provide the other to create a truly win-win outcome for both. These are accelerate advantage, build capacity, and create value. It was mentioned this is a give-and-take proposition for both parties. What I didn’t offer, however, is what these really look like, how they can be behaviorally defined, and, most importantly, how they can be measured. This blog post will attempt to address these challenges. Let’s take them one at a time.

Accelerate Advantage

This is the case wherein both parties assist each other to gain competitive advantage in their respective markets. For suppliers in the talent development industry, the competitive landscape is pretty clear, although getting more and more muddled. (But that’s a subject for a subsequent blog.) Here are some practices in which suppliers and their customers can engage to accelerate the competitive advantage of each other:

  • Understand the competitive drivers for both of your respective industries.

  • Help understand each other’s competitive landscape and where both of you fit in.

  • Recommend other suppliers who have additional capabilities, beyond yours, that could assist the customer.

  • Provide your suppliers with appropriately legal and moral intel on your competitors.

  • Recognize how your customers assist their customers.

  • Identify how you can provide a competitive advantage for your customers.

  • Share your knowledge of the supplier industry with your customers and theirs with you.

  • Create metrics that demonstrate market share gains as a result of the partnership.

Build Capacity

This element addresses how you and your customers will help each other build the internal capability to enhance the growth of your respective businesses. Here are some practices in which suppliers and their customers can engage to build the capacity of each other:

  • Understand your customers’ competency models and how your offer supports those.

  • Provide organizational and individual programming aligned with the strategic agenda of their business.

  • Obtain feedback from your customers on what you do well and where you need to improve.

  • Audit relevant customer programs to better understand how they are currently addressing their internal development needs.

  • Arrange for C-level exchange of needs and ideas for building capabilities in each other.

  • Share what your other customers, where appropriate, are doing to address similar capacity challenges.

  • Share what other suppliers are doing that is helping them build their internal capabilities.

  • Create measures of success that illustrate how capacity has been built.

Create Value

This third pillar for establishing strong win-win partnerships involves creating and leveraging value for both you the supplier and your customers. Here are some practices in which suppliers and their customers can create value for each other:

  • Identify and understand each other’s value proposition.

  • Recognize how each brings added value to their respective customers served.

  • Negotiate mutual expectations at the outset of every engagement.

  • Share successes, and failures, with each other about respective customer engagements.

  • Identify what makes for an ideal relationship with their customers.

  • Exchange cases of best and worst practices experienced with your respective customers.

  • Distinguish the differences, if any, between personal and professional value-added activities.

Possible Success Measures

At the end of the day, what is perhaps most important is how you evaluate the success of the partnership. There are typically two buckets these measures might fall into: the inside dynamics of the relationship itself, and those outcome-based outside-facing metrics. Measures of inside dynamics could include length of engagement, increased project scopes, additional projects, willingness to reference, and shared communications, among others. Outside-facing metrics might include increased market share, improved profitability, greater customer retention, improved processes, and so on for each of the partners.

How would you evaluate the partnerships you have with your customers? Have you considered what is your and their competitive advantage, capacity, and value proposition? Do each of you fully know what these are for the other? Have you thought about how your customers could help you achieve each? More importantly, have you considered how you can assist your customers in achieving theirs? How would you go about measuring the successful achievement of each?

For more insight, check out my book The Complete Guide to Building and Growing a Talent Development Firm.


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