Healthy relationships are at the core of any successful business – they allow companies to increase efficiency, address blind spots in production and distribution, and develop more innovative products and services. But when these relationships aren’t underpinned by clearly defined expectations, a set of concrete goals, and specific metrics for measuring success toward those goals, they can end up being more trouble than they’re worth.
This is why every B2B relationship should be guided by an intelligent business plan. When companies prioritize transparency, open communication, and the establishment of mutual goals, they will ensure that their teams are aligned, their operations are as efficient as possible, and their partnerships are sustainable.
While partnerships are vital to help companies make the most of their resources and increase productivity, they can be difficult to navigate – different cultures and operations have to be integrated, disputes have to be managed, and so on. This is why business plans are so important – they provide an organizational framework that helps partners implement shared policies and practices, communicate and collaborate more efficiently, and ultimately build stronger relationships.
Developing and pursuing shared goals
For relationships to remain healthy over the long term, both parties have to participate in the establishment of clear goals and strategies for achieving them. When teams know what they’re working toward and how they intend to get there, companies won’t have to waste time micromanaging employees and restating objectives. Disagreements will also be less common because leaders from both companies have already agreed on strategic priorities and methods.
When companies develop business plans, they shouldn’t just focus on goals and metrics for success – they should also identify potential problems and strategies for addressing them. One of the advantages of forging strategic partnerships is the outside perspective other employees and leadership teams can bring to your business – especially when one partner has expertise with certain industries, markets, etc. that another lacks. According to a Gartner report, when organizations pursue specific objectives and identify the problems they have to solve, their likelihood of achieving those objectives increases by 20 to 30 percent. Meanwhile, a McKinsey survey found that alignment on objectives was the top contributor to successful partnerships.
Companies have never had access to more data about their consumers, supply chain operations, and changing economic conditions, which allows them to make evidence-based decisions across a wide range of business areas. However, they also need to be capable of using data to develop a coherent business plan – a process that should involve all partners.
Make communication and collaboration top priorities
We’re living in the era of digital collaboration. From SaaS platforms that allow companies and their partners to align operations across many departments, teams, and business functions to cloud-based productivity tools that help employees work together in real time, the digital resources that facilitate healthy partnerships are becoming more robust and accessible all the time. As companies prepare to allow a significant proportion of employees to continue working remotely after COVID-19, these resources are only going to become more important.
As useful as digital communication and collaboration tools are for accomplishing day-to-day tasks, they’re a means to a much larger end: opening up lines of communication and establishing trust. According to McKinsey, companies cite the lack of “effective internal communication and trust” as the issue most likely to damage relationships with their partners. The second-most harmful problem is a failure to align on objectives – an issue directly tied to a lack of communication, which is necessary to both establish and pursue those objectives.
Digital communication and collaboration have long been essential for productive partnerships, but never more so than they are today. According to the 2021 Deloitte Human Capital Trends Survey, companies cite the introduction of digital collaboration platforms as the top factor that will make remote work sustainable. COVID-19 has forced companies to rethink communication and collaboration, but the fundamentals remain the same: bring partners together around mutual goals, make it easy for teams to work together, and build trust between workforces.
Streamline your strategic planning
One of the most significant problems companies face when they try to integrate their operations and workforces is a lack of strategic planning. An intelligent business plan can help partners answer the most essential questions about how their relationships will help them secure their goals: What will the division of labor look like? How will disputes be mediated? Who are the key decision-makers? How will companies change course if a strategy isn’t working?
While it’s necessary to develop a business plan to answer these questions, it’s also vital to ensure that planning sessions are focused and productive. According to Gartner, executives say 56 percent of the time they spend on strategic planning is wasted. Considering the fact that they devote more than 10 hours per week to planning, this adds up to a staggering amount of lost productivity every year. This is why leaders from both companies need to determine exactly what they hope to accomplish with planning sessions and establish clear parameters in terms of length, subject matter, etc. The last thing companies want to do is make planning a chore – they need buy-in across leadership teams for plans to be accepted and fully implemented.
As the global economy becomes more complex and interdependent, partnerships are increasingly necessary to help companies take advantage of all the human capital and other resources at their disposal. The companies that manage these partnerships most effectively will have a huge competitive advantage in the coming years, and intelligent business plans will help them do just that.