Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Choose Your Business Partners Well

The title of this article might have also been called, "Working Hard to No Avail - Choose Your Partners Well."
Choosing partners well might seem obvious to everyone. But, in this day and age of limited opportunity and a poor economy, many might say that it is not a choosers market. But let me also add on to this statement by saying that one should not only choose their partners well, they should also choose their clients well.... Especially if they are a new business. 

There are only 24 hours in a day; only so much time that can be dedicated to doing a job right. What happens to you if you work hard and show the needed dedication to your projects only to have those projects ruined by business practices of your clients or partners? What happens to you and your reputation if you introduce your partners and clients to your own local business network connections - and bring them into your network - and they turn around and make you look bad to your connections that you had nurtured for all this time?

You agree to do a job for money. Time is also money. If you spend lots of time on a project and then your partner or client ruins it, then not only have you lost time, you lost money... Reputation is also money - only your reputation is priceless. Protect your reputation like gold.

Your company logo here... Er, never mind....

I know what I am talking about here because huge incidents involving my partners and clients it have happened several times in the last two years. One just happened again in the last few days.

I started a marketing and advertising branch in my company because I felt that selling advertising for TV and radio shows that I produced was not getting the results I wanted in today's market. Why? Well, when I sell for a TV or radio show and the client is interested in the Internet, cell phones, events, print media, then I lose out.

But if I take care of the client needs across the board, it matters not to me if they want the Internet, I can arrange that; if they want TV or radio, I can arrange that too. If I run the advertising agency, rather than just being an executive producer for a broadcast, then I am able to fill clients needs whatever they may be. Of course, you must always fill a need.

The market is tight and competition is tough. No matter, I was still able to go out and do some major tie-ups for huge Japanese companies and overseas corporations trying to break into the Japanese market. The deals were all set up to be very mutually beneficial to all parties involved. Since my company is a new company in this market, I was arranging promotions for a very inexpensive price - sometimes free - to show clients that I can achieve the impossible in the Japanese market for little cost to them.

But, in some cases, the business problems of my partners or other unforeseeable events have caused damage to my company. 

There is an old Chinese curse that says, "May you live in interesting times."

I have to say that it has been a very fun, exciting, sometimes extremely stressful, and yes, interesting few years; I have had client companies suddenly go bankrupt. Once was an airlines that was shutdown by their local country government. It was the first time in aviation history that a license was revoked to a private company by a government. Yes. That was my client. I had to spend the next three months going about to the Japanese partner companies and bowing my head profusely and apologizing. (Hint: Always bring a box of cookies to the person you are apologizing to. This shows manners and respect in Japan... And, no, I don't mean a dollar bag of cookies from the convenience store. I mean at least a $20 gift box of cookies from the department store. High class stuff only!)

Luckily for me, all my Japanese partners knew me for years and understood that these events were out of my control. They appreciated the fact that I took responsibility and apologized. 

I am proud to say that I still have every single one of these Japanese partners still as partners today!

I've had another airlines be in the news, twice in two weeks, for having knives and cutters found onboard - as well as another highly visible mechanical failure - just as we were about to agree to a deal with another major Japanese partner. The Japanese partner, when he heard about this incident on the news, was extremely worried. The deal was killed.

And now, yesterday - right after a major promotional deal was just completed in Japan - I see where riots have hit the streets of one of my client countries that was involved in this major promotion. I won't name the country, but this is a country that is not in the Middle East and is not one of the EU nations suffering. Many people do not even know this country. But, yet, there they are on RTTV and on Youtube and the alternative news media; riots in the street and full battle gear riot police battling it out with demonstrators.

I seriously doubt that a Japanese person will want to go to vacation there. If this news hits the mainstream media in Japan, which I suspect it will soon, then all the work that I did with the fine people who work at that nation's Tourism Board and I will be down the drain. Not to mention the fact that the major Japanese partner of our recent promotion will be furious and demand an explanation from me. If the rioting escalates and the situation worsens, this will also probably ruin any future cooperation between me and that Japanese partner forever.

I have no control over this situation. Even though I don't and this is 100% not my fault, I will still need to bow my head to the Japanese partner, apologize and take responsibility.

It takes a long time to build trust. It just takes one action to destroy that trust. 

I took a long time building trust and a relation with the Japanese partner. This one incident might destroy that trust forever.

So never forget, dear reader, whether it is a new job position that you are applying for or you are deciding who to work with or work for, choose your partners carefully.

Good reputations are hard to build. Sometimes, things out of your control, will make them even more difficult to keep. 

Remember that time and reputation are money. Don't be penny wise and pound foolish. Choose your partners and clients well. 

This article was inspired by Roger Marshall of Odgers Berndtson, now there's a guy who only chooses the best.    


Andy "In Japan" said...

Another valuable lesson Mike is touching on is the part about not using excuses as a means of avoiding responsibility. Successful people take responsibility, apologize, and do their best to fix things when they go wrong. This is especially true in Japan, though it's important in other cultures as well.

People who you let down aren't generally interested in your excuses. If they want an explanation, they will ask for it.

Anonymous said...

"Successful people take responsibility, apologize, and do their best to fix things when they go wrong. This is especially true in Japan....."

This is the nice image that they usually have but in my years here, I have often found it to be just an image and pure bull. Proof now judging from how the government and TEPCO have carried on since the Quake and the years leading up to.