• Business planning and strategy
  • Entrepreneurship
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The art of building partnerships

Futurpreneur | September 27, 2011

Jean Lepage, Développement économique – CLD Gatineau, Gatineau, QC, CYBF community partner

For many people, competitive analysis is considered an integral part of a business owner’s strategic process. But many of the most successful entrepreneurs don’t think so. Why?

Sarah Sarasvathy is a teacher at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. She interviewed 45 entrepreneurs in a variety of industries, from railways to toys, whose sales ranged from $200 million to $6.5 billion. Her research showed that these entrepreneurs preferred to spend their time and effort creating partnerships with various players (financial partners, research centers, suppliers, investors, distributors, clients, etc.) in order create opportunities together and share risk.

For example, when these entrepreneurs meet a client, they are not in the ‘sales mode’ but rather, they become problem-solvers. Instead of trying to sell their gadgets and asserting that it will change the world, the entrepreneur asks the client what she would do with such a product and whether it addresses her needs. The client can end the meeting by saying “I would be interested in your product if you make the following changes to it.” This opens new doors for the entrepreneur.

After getting valuable feedback from the client, the entrepreneur must then decide whether to find another client or adapt his product to satisfy the first one’s requirements. He can also choose to take a ‘co-creation’ approach and say to his original client: “OK, I will modify my product if you make the commitment to purchase three of them.” If the client agrees, she becomes an integral part of the project and the two will work together.

The most successful entrepreneurs work closely with clients and others to create the best possible products or services and develop the partnerships they need to make this happen.

Partnering with Microsoft

In 2010, Francis Lamontagne, an entrepreneur in the automotive sector and Jean-Batiste Martinoli, an internationally recognized software inventor and developer, created ExoPC, the world’s first Windows-based tablet.

Everything was ready – the tablet, the website, etc., but they did not launch their product. Wisely, they waited until the news broke of Apple’s iPad’s launch and the world was abuzz for these new products.

For Lamontagne and Martinoli, a partnership with the Montreal-based firm Hypertec paved their road to Microsoft. There, they got help identifying appropriate suppliers which lowered manufacturing costs and reduced their product’s weight. Microsoft also became a solid business partner and sold the tablet under license.

The creators of ExoPC also built a partnership with Intel to develop vertical markets such as health care. Despite fierce global competition that in the tablet market, ExoPC, a company from the lower St.Lawrence River region in Quebec, Canada, has shown that partnerships can help small businesses find their place on the world stage.