By Bill Flury

The Announcement

Beth and Gregory came back into the office very excited. They called everyone together in the conference room to make a very important announcement. Beth broke the news: “We’re engaged!” Everyone was thrilled, but not for Beth and Gregory who had sealed the deal, but for everyone, because this was great news for our company. Let me explain.

Body Shopping

Our company is like many new startups that began with a few ideas for some consumer electronic products we could make and sell.  We have done well with our first few products and are always looking for ways to grow the company.

A few months ago, we had a call from a Widget Corp. VP asking for some help. She knew that we built similar products. She asked if we had any qualified production people we could provide to help them for several weeks with the software testing and assembly of their newest hot product. We would be paid for their time and they would work under their direction.

Widget was producing an in-home, electronic personal assistant they were marketing under the trade name “Jeeves”. They had received more advance orders that they had expected and needed to speed up their production schedule by adding some outside help.

We had some staff who were awaiting some new work so we arranged to “body shop” them over to Widget. We sent Beth and Gregory and three others over to Widget. It was a good deal for them and us.

Becoming a Vendor

After three weeks of working at Widget, Beth stopped back at the office to share a marketing idea she had. She described what she and the others were doing for Widget. She also described the product and told us that Jeeves was very popular and Widget was continuing to have trouble meeting demand. She said that we could probably set up a process that could make that product better, faster and cheaper and the client might like to have us do that for them. She suggested that we contact the Widget VP for Production.

I spoke to the VP and described our production capabilities. I offered to work with him to see if we could manufacture and supply Jeeves at a fixed price that would be lower than what it was now costing him.  After some discussion between the two of us and some joint planning by their engineering team and ours, they agreed to a purchase agreement. We would take over all Jeeves production and promise to deliver as many as they could sell. They would be able to use their production line to start making a new product that they had designed but had not had the resources to put into production. As before, it was a good deal for them and us.

We Became a Vendor

Our relationship with Widget was beginning to grow. In the beginning, we were just selling them staff hours. Now, as a result of Beth’s entrepreneurial thinking, we would be selling them a product priced such that both we and Widget could make a profit and also helping them to satisfy the rapidly increasing demand for Jeeves.

Becoming Engaged

As we worked together, we found out how the client often combined Jeeves with its other products. We also had the opportunity to acquaint Widget management with our products and the similar types of work that we were doing. That’s what, ultimately, led to the engagement.

Beth and Gregory had been working on the Widget contract from the outset. They started with the hourly group and stayed with it while we set up our Jeeves production line. They sat in on all the discussions of how we might start to integrate our products and production lines with Widget’s. They were the leaders in bringing our two companies together. Today was the day they had gone to see the Widget VP about establishing a new, closer relationship — an engagement — a promise to work together on many new ventures of mutual interest.

No Surprise

You may have been puzzled by the fact that the excitement about the “We’re engaged!” announcement was not about Beth and Gregory. Everyone there knew that Beth and Gregory were both happily married to their respective spouses. The real excitement was about the new, closer relationship between our company and Widget. That was good news for everyone because it would provide more new, exciting and rewarding work for everyone.

How Personal Relationships Develop

  1. Two people meet.
  2. They spend some time together.
  3. They get to know each other, what they can do, what they like to do.
  4. They find some things to do together.
  5. They do more of those things and enjoy doing them together.
  6. They get “engaged” and plan for a wonderful future.

That’s how it works for people. Can businesses do the same?

Our Path to the Engagement

Beth and Gregory were both imbued with the entrepreneurial spirit of our company. As they worked with Widget, they followed the same path that people do to develop their relationships. Their marketing strategy and activities played out well. Our two companies are now engaged and working and planning together for a wonderful future.

Two companies, with similar product lines and markets, similarly qualified staff, working together successfully – Could marriage be in the offing?

Has your organization ever had the opportunity to forge a similar relationship, or would it be open to the idea?

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