Sparring partners or bosom buddies

6 tips to navigating the precarious path to partnership

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Our political landscape is currently dominated by the theme of partnership.

Having delivered a seismic shock to the “establishment” and ensured that no one party carries an overall majority, the Irish people are now faced with coalition as the order of the day.  And in the current context, we could be looking at any number of strange bedfellows.  The path to government will be a long and winding road.

In politics as in business, our world is peppered with great examples of successful partnerships; Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, founders of HP, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak of Apple fame and closer to home, Dan and Linda Kiely of Voxpro, who offloaded their outsourcing company in 2017 with a massive €40M payout.

And whether we want to or not, choosing partners to work with can greatly assist our business trajectory. It might not be the obvious move and one that has never entered into our conscious thought, but it could be the right one if we approach it correctly.

As a CEO, owner/manager or sales director, we’re under tremendous pressure to successfully navigate a dynamic business world.  Intense competition, shareholder pressures and changing market demands pose significant day-to-day challenges.

We don’t always have the right answers to address them.

Our employees, stakeholders and customers expect us to meet these challenges head-on; we’re the boss after all.

But it’s ok to say:  “I’m struggling here, I’m out of my comfort zone and I need help.”

Bringing in an external, objective, third-party to assist in solving a problem or indeed a set of problems can pay huge dividends, but is in itself a daunting prospect.

Here are our six tips to ensuring that the relationship with any chosen partner runs a smooth course:  

1. Be ready to share

This means being open and honest about the issues involved and willing to share detailed information about your business operations.

In the course of our engagements at Boost Your Sales, we often find that the problem cited is not the real problem at all but is masking a greater underlying difficulty.  Sales might be falling for example, but it might have nothing to do with ‘go-to-market’ strategy.  There could be limited demand for the product or service or the buying personas are not reflected in the sales and marketing strategies.

2. Be ready to listen

It’s difficult to take on board the views of an external party.  Chances are you hold very entrenched views about how your business should be run, who your customers are and how you should increase sales.  This is part of the problem as you can’t see ‘outside the box’. Nobody knows your business like you do.  Truth hurts.  

However, accepting a fresh pair of eyes and embracing a process that can objectively and analytically review business operations with a view to making actionable recommendations for success, is the first step in making a positive change for the better.

3. Be ready to get employee buy-in

If change is on the way, it’s advisable to get stakeholder buy-in from the outset.  Being transparent about the process and getting employees in particular involved, makes them feel that they are a huge part of the solution.

Employee involvement supports feelings of inclusivity and belonging in your business and makes them believe they have a stake in its success.  Teamwork is going to be critical in the weeks and months ahead.  This ‘we’re all in it together’ mentality will be crucial.

4. Be ready to act

Plans are not made to sit on a shelf and gather dust.  They have to be implemented.  So if there’s a willingness to shake things up, there has to be a parallel commitment to follow through.  That means ensuring that any plans agreed are properly resourced through human and financial capital.

Consistency is the important factor here.  There’s no point embarking on a pathway with all guns blazing only to watch the enthusiasm and drive peter out after a couple of months.  Change doesn’t happen overnight.  You have to stay the course.

5. Be ready to evaluate

Closing the iterative loop is a critical part of the process.  Measuring the impact of change fuels future learning and allows us to flex our plans as required. Plans are not cast in stone.  They should be proscriptive enough to detail a course of action but agile enough to change direction if required.

It’s only through measuring business outcomes that we can truly know if our efforts are being rewarded.

6. Be ready to reflect

Change brings with it a great deal of psychological upheaval and can play havoc with our mental health.  Leaders in every walk of life from religion, sport and business tell us that in order to be able to help others we must first be able to help ourselves. We need to be 100% in top form, full of energy, disciplined and focused. The only way we can do this is by taking planned time out for personal reflection. We need to “sharpen our saw”, reflect, chill and breathe.


Joe O’Reilly is Managing Director with, a sales, marketing and business mentoring services company for growth-focused IT and tech services companies in Dublin, Leinster and beyond! 

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