A shift from competition to community has never been more important

Now, more than ever, both at home and at work, we need to be surrounded by people we can rely upon and trust as we ride the waves of uncertainty. Over the past year, we have learnt that priorities and targets can be shifted in the blink of an eye which has increased the importance of flexibility, support networks and relying on each other. This is just as relevant in business, including who we choose as strategic partners and how we contract with those partners. Recently, an encouraging new game-changing trend is emerging within facilities management and real estate services, where all parties involved in the procurement process are working more collaboratively than before, invested in each other’s success, and creating win-win partnerships.

It is critical, especially during these times, that a partner that can be relied upon, and bring their very best expertise and creative thinking to the partnership. For example, how best to provide catering services to a dramatically reduced workforce or working together to produce a ‘return to the office’ plan. Partners must understand that ways of working and the role and purpose of the office are fundamentally changing and be prepared to help lead the way with the response to these changes.

A key component to enabling a collaborative partnership is the foundation upon which it is built. The importance of cultural fit and shared values is crucial. A challenge we all face right now is the lack of face-to-face interaction, those asides and non-work related conversations which so often underpin a strong relationship.

Another key factor when it comes to collaboration is who creates the agreement.  The buy-in to develop a different style of partnership and to transform must come from the top of both organisations. A successful collaborative agreement will have a core team who not only develop the terms of the agreement, but who will live and breathe them once the ink is dry and the deal goes live. This provides continuity and perpetuates understanding, for example, operational, finance, procurement and technology leads alongside supplier account leads should all be part of the core deal team. The ultimate aim is to create one joint team where you may indeed forget who is from which party.


Opening up

The final element is transparency. It is vital that both parties lay their cards on the table upfront to form a set of ‘guardrails’ – these are boundaries which the core team will work within to create the agreement. This can be unsettling, as typically you may hold back some information to reach the best possible deal for your organisation. However, agreeing guardrails upfront sets the foundation to create a win-win relationship in which the parties are equally vested in each other’s success.

This is quite a sea-change from how deals have traditionally been done. It takes bravery and trust to hand aspects over to your supply partner, especially if your organisation is more ‘hands on’ with service delivery. But, by focussing on insight rather than oversight governance, an organisation should free up capacity to focus on the bigger, strategic issues. The conversations can then turn from how services should be performed, to how both parties can work together to create the best value.

Guiding principles should be set at the beginning for all those involved and form part of the agreement. These typically include behaviours such as integrity and loyalty and should also include the celebration, appreciation and acknowledgement of each other’s work and achievements over the lifetime of the agreement.

As with any deal, the commercial model forms a key aspect of the partnership. A successful commercial model should incentivise your partner to be there for you through thick and thin and during inevitable changes to the business. Your partner should be rewarded for supporting these changes and bringing transformation whilst ensuring base services are delivered at consistently high-levels.

By taking a more collaborative approach to developing the commercial model, a successful deal should generate greater value, created by both parties working effectively together. The greater the value created, the more there is to share for both parties.

This shift from competition to community, focussing on collaboration with a true strategic partner, will help strengthen organisations as they go through not only internal business changes, but also as they experience external factors beyond their control.