It’s amazing to me how many times words are used today yet the definitions are not really fully understood. Take the word “partnership.” Let’s look at the definition of this word …” the state or condition of being a partner, participation, association; joint interest.” Think about the joint interest part for a moment.

How many of your business relationships are really cultivated with the “joint interest” of both parties. Let’s take this one step further. Here is another definition of “partnership”… “ a contractual relationship between two or more persons carrying on a joint business venture with a view to profit, each incurring liability for losses and the right to share in the profit.”

Do yourself a favor and read that last sentence again …”each incurring liability for losses …” We will come back to that in a moment.

Now add this in to the mix, a recent survey of 750 manufacturers and 500 distributors show an extremely low level of communication between each other: Seventy-three percent of the manufacturers and 63 percent of distributors indicate that high quality two-way communication is non-existent in their working relationships with each other.

So, if you couple the true definition of partnership and how it is not happening with the fact that the majority of people in business relationships can’t or won’t communicate well together, it’s no wonder that everything comes down to profit.

So ask yourself this, “When was the last time that I reached out to one of my partners with the attitude of sharing not only in the profits, but also in the liabilities?” What are you saying? Are you suggesting that I participate in my partners losses? That depends.

The same research revealed that only 17 percent of the distributors polled indicate that they have clearly defined goals and plans with manufacturers for accomplishing these goals. So the other 83 percent don’t really have a plan. Why not include in your plan the topic of liability for losses? That way, there will be no mutual mystification when it comes to losses. This could be a fundamental shift in the way that business is conducted between manufacturers and distributors. What if each truly was looking out for the other? In my 27 years of working as a distributor, I have rarely, if ever, seen a plan in place to clearly define the losses that could occur in a joint relationship.

To the manufacturer: Do yourself a favor and leap ahead of your competition by addressing this point head on with your clients.

To the distributor: Make sure that you are in discussions with your partners regarding this. It will help you in many ways.

How you act towards your partners is up to you. Don’t blame them for their role, rather look to yourself and take the responsibility for yourself. That way, you can build a confident, enjoyable and profitable relationship with your partner.

Thus, the “I” in partnership … it’s me taking responsibility for my actions and not blaming the other partner, nor is it waiting for the other partner to step up and take the responsibility. Be in the minority and look at the “I” in partnership and see how you can improve your strategic partnerships today, or tomorrow, your competitor will!

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