Business Relationship Management — Building a partnership

Question: What’s the best way to find a perfect partner to start the partnership with?

Building relationships, be they in a professional or personal context can be for a whole range of reasons but it is nearly always the case that there are motivations and benefits to doing so.

You may expect that it would be the case that when those two things are closest aligned then you have the basis for the best relationship. Whilst that is probably true, I think there is also a lot to be gained from having relationships that challenge you and approach things with a different perspective.

For the Business Partner (BRM) then the reason for building relationships in their organisation (and beyond) can often be because a process requires an exchange of information to take place. The danger is that in this context it remains an exchange of information and the opportunity for the BRM to move beyond “order taker” and to start adding value to the organisation will be limited.

You’re unlikely to be able to escape those formal relationships and it may be the case they are the ones that you must start to build first. They may also be the gateway to introductions to other relationships and so don’t discount them just because they appear to be low value.

The other relationships that I would be looking to build then become where I can see that there is an opportunity to make a difference, to bring groups of people together or to solve bigger challenges that wouldn’t immediately be seen by others.

Others may take a “follow the money” approach and look to see where the biggest value projects are and embed themselves into those things. For others, it may be about building a profile and presence in the organisation to achieve something else.

Regardless of the motivation, the greatest risk is that you build relationships with people because that’s what you do. Without wanting to sound like there is always something to be obtained, in the BRM context, then I believe it is important not to forget that the relationship (and the curation of those) is to achieve something else. For a commercial organisation that will be linked in some way to making money (profit), for other organisations, it may be about accelerating the delivery of benefits or achieving the mission.

This is a much broader question and one that it would have been great to understand more of the context from which it was asked. There are a couple of other things to just add to the discussion about how in creating a BRM function you may want to approach the relationships.

  • Be clear about what it is that you want to achieve through the relationship and work with the right people. If it is about speeding up delivery or addressing service issues that will be different from shaping the organisation’s strategy.
  • Give some consideration to the people, their personality and preferences. The type of BRM that you may want for a Finance/Corporate Services business unit may be very different from someone who needs to be more innovative working alongside a product innovation team.
  • Think about the characteristics of the relationship that you want to have. Is it customer-supplier or peer-advisor? Saying yes to the customer requests is going to create a different relationship to one where you’re able to challenge their process or shape their thinking — even moving to a “we can’t do that but could look at this” position is often just a polite “no” and doesn’t put the two parties on an equal footing.

Finally, recognise that relationships will always be built between people and sometimes they won’t work and that doesn’t matter. What does matter is recognising it and being prepared to flex and change. Just because someone is in the job role which says they’re responsible for something doesn’t mean there won’t be occasions where another member of the team is going to achieve a better outcome. Good teams know this and play to their strengths.

Ultimately you can’t find a perfect partner, you create it. Starting with clarity of purpose and exploring that with others will be the best first step in getting to your answer.

Written by

An experienced senior digital business leader with experience of delivering transformative change.

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