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Partnership is perhaps one of the most overused words in American business, yet it still remains one of the most important practices. Consider one of the great American success stories – Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart’s ability to leverage the collective strength of its supply chain partnerships has allowed those partners to actually see real store sales data and make buying decisions for Wal-Mart. These decisions assure that the world’s largest retailer always has the perfect product mix for its customers for every season. This collaborative approach has had devastating effect on competitors such as Kmart and Toys-R-Us. Once an unheard of business practice, the partnering approach has now become an industry practice.

The simple truth is that very few companies do everything well. Most American companies don’t lack good ideas, but rather the focus to move those good ideas forward. Too many companies try to do too much. The question should be: “Why would you want to build the expertise when you can partner with a company that already possesses it?” The mutual synergy of two “best in breed” companies creates unique solutions that allow customers to experience great products and services faster, often at a lower cost.

One could reflect on Cisco Systems’ magnificent success with their “ecosystem” of partners. Their partners allow the internetworking juggernaut to access the talents of tens of thousands of partners around the world who have developed the perfect solution based on their own vertical expertise. In turn, this allows Cisco to bring the perfect solution to every customer.

Cisco provides the hardware and internetworking software, while their partners bring layers of custom application, local support, implementation services and ongoing customer services that provide the customer with the best solution. This partnership formation ushered in a communication revolution over the last two decades and allowed Cisco to slay competitors like Lucent and Nortel. If Cisco had built all the expertise themselves, they may have missed the opportunity and you might not have the Internet.

When one considers the tradeshow industry, the need for partnerships that allows you to stay focused on your core business, while others provide you with the know-how you don’t possess, is critical when developing a strategic advantage over your competition. The secret is to establish relationships with key partners who understand your business and have developed capabilities that make your company better by adding value to your core competency. They should have both processes and cultural aptitude that result in making their customers better companies. If they do, chances are they’ll make your company better as well.

With great anticipation, we all look forward to a true upturn in our economy. Because of years of cutting back, speed to market will be essential. The question is not whether to “build” or “buy” the expertise, but getting to the market quickly. Few companies do everything well. Key partnerships that extend your core business and enhance your companies value has always been the secret to success. Look at your own “ecosystem” of partners and reflect on their willingness to make your company not only better, but even more competitive. Good partnerships make companies great.

Rick Bellerjeau has been in the tradeshow industry for the past five years, working as general manager at Momentum Management. Their approach to developing partnerships that enhance the value of their customers has been a key component to their success for many years. The unique perspectives shared represent a deep rooted belief that as a partner, we can build something great together. Rick can be reached at rbellerjeau@momentummgt.com.

  • Momentum Management
  • Hill and Partners
  • ETA Transportation