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REDTAIL works with both small and large businesses. In all those relationships, we strive to work with humility, empathy, and fortitude in order to, well, succeed together. The sum of which is that working with the right folk in the right way is imperative to growth.  This has consistently brought to the fore the meaning of ‘partner’ in our business relationships.

We’ve all seen it: Partner Programme, Partner Contract; Partner Relationship, Partner Pricing (pricing a subject all on its own!) – all ripe for abuse and exploitation – and of course opportunity. Very recently I was in a meeting in which the (large) company representative stated clearly and warmly: ‘We like to work with people as partners, where it’s about relationship.’ Nice. Conversely, I was in a meeting in which a (small/medium) company representative stated clearly ‘You are not a partner you are a commodity.’ Less nice.

I am happy to confirm that in my first example, the large company Partner has backed up their statement with collaborative behaviour.  Likewise, rather unfortunately, my second example has continued to… abuse expectations, shall we say.


But what should ‘Partner’ mean, and when should this over-flexed term be used?

I offer three areas for discussion on partner behaviours:

  1. Mutual understanding of market(s) and business context
  2. Mutually beneficial directions & outcomes – interdependencies
  3. Respect

All very collaborative, positive behaviours that you’d want to experience in any relationship you find yourself involved in. But what do they mean? How can they be achieved?

Mutual understanding of market(s) and business context

This is not a history lesson. It is a dialogue (important word) on where a business has come from, its DNA, where its key people have come from, and where it hopes to get and how, and even when. Share (under NDA) to care, as they say. Dedicate the time and intellect. Question and listen to the answer. Understand and accept.

Mutually beneficial directions & outcomes

Perhaps the most difficult. It is a moving target of course. Understanding of today’s ambitions takes no account of market dynamics that may impact both direction and outcome. Acceptance can be tested by a seemingly inconsistent knee-jerk reaction. Relationships can be impacted without transparent communication. Having said that, to continue to enable growth, for outcomes to be celebrated mutually, surely a worthwhile investment in every sense of the word.


‘a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements’;

‘due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of others’

Nuff said?

So when should we use this term? Difficult to be prescriptive, and I would certainly urge a considered approach. What I am sure of is that when you mean it, say it, and when you say it mean it.  Act accordingly and with consistency, resolve, and not a little humility, empathy and fortitude.