“If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”
A quick Google search to find the origins of the quote above, will yield results ranging from Warren Buffet to an ancient African proverb. Regardless of the origin, the truth of the statement resonates across industries and continents.
The global pandemic has heightened our awareness of the pitfalls of isolation and the need for trusted partnerships. Nations collaborated to share vaccines, while neighbors picked up groceries for each other. We all benefit when we work together.
Work from Home Culture
Throughout time, business partnerships have traditionally been cultivated through conferences, and networking events. Now, work-from-home (WFH) trends are on a steady incline. By the end of 2022, Ladders predicts that 25% of all employers in professional industries in North America will be working remotely.
Leaders of large organizations are at a crossroads. While a study by Microsoft found that over 50% of business owners are planning to reinstate a fully in-office working culture, such a move could lead to a large turnover. With 52% of employees considering a move to remote or hybrid jobs, leaders would be wise to lean into the desires of their employees.
While the nature of remote work makes forming a partnership locally more difficult, it has also opened the eyes of many to the possibilities of remote partnerships. A survey by The Owl Labs of 2,050 remote employees found that 90% self-reported having equal or increased productivity while working remotely. Thus, if an organization is already functioning efficiently with a team spread across the United States, imagine the possibilities that are available if they began collaborating with offshore teams!
Taking on offshore partnerships certainly comes with a fair share of challenges. Issues such as cultural differences, time changes, and language stand out. Those factors cannot be eliminated. However, certain variables can decrease their impact. Therefore, what are the best ways at forming a partnership?
Perhaps, the most important determining factor when choosing an offshore partner is the level to which they can adapt to the working culture of the clients they are serving. While no culture is superior to the other, all organizations must adapt to meet the needs and expectations of their clients. If one team is located in the cultural climate of the end clients, they need to collaborate with the offshore team to help them understand appropriate working practices and communication methods.
Additionally, time differences can be seen as both a blessing and a curse. Positively, a time difference creates the opportunity for projects to have attention 24/7. While one team is sleeping, the other team is active and responding to the needs of clients. Moreover, tasks can be assigned at the end of the day in one location and completed before the next day arrives. Nevertheless, collaboration time is greatly limited. Both teams have to sacrifice their ideal working hours to find the middle ground. Each organization must determine if these challenges are greater than the potential benefit of offshore partnerships.
Scalability and Diversification
If partnerships create these challenges, should organizations focus on internal growth instead? I think two main factors make external partnerships attractive: scalability and diversification.
External partners allow a team to quickly scale to levels far beyond their current capacity. It takes time, patience, and considerable resources to grow a team internally. Finding talent, completing the hiring and onboarding process, and then keeping that talent is an endless cycle. However, with external partnerships, a team can grow while skipping many of these steps. Moreover, the financial commitments to onboard and offboard talent are far less costly.
Furthermore, external partners add diversification to a team’s capabilities. For example, while an organization might specialize in a few technologies. Adding a team with a wider tech stack can allow an organization to offer services they previously could not. Organizations need to move slowly when offering services that rely on their partners. First, by testing to see if the quality is up to their standards. Nevertheless, the possibilities for diversification are endless when finding unique partners.
Forming a Partnership
An example of an organization leaning into partnerships is my own, Rubico. Our entire business model is centered around partnerships. As a software development agency, we collaborate with web/marketing agencies, start-ups, nonprofits, and enterprise clients predominantly in the United States. However, our team is in the United States and India. Thus, we have worked tirelessly to establish a working culture that is in sync internally. That also adjusts to fit the needs of our clients. We have learned to remain agile, adjusting our systems and processes to make our partners more comfortable.
One of the most practical ways we adapt to our partners is by simply asking questions.For example, when we start a new partnership, we take time on a start-up call to ask our partners what project management systems they prefer. Also, what time of the day they like to meet, and who the final decision maker is on their team. All of these questions may seem simple. However, they establish from the outset that our team is willing to adapt to make the partnership successful.
In conclusion, the global pandemic and WFH culture have increased the awareness of the necessity and availability of partnerships, both locally and globally. Approach partnership with caution, as cultural differences and quality assurance take time to smooth out. However, once two partners are on the same page, the potential to scale one’s output and diversify services are worth the challenge.