Why a partnership meant taking a risk

Overview

As a company, we have over 10 years of experience in the technology and human aspects of software implementation. Almost all our sales came through our direct sales force, but we wanted to establish a partner network to drive at least 20% of our sales. But when IBM approached us, we had to think carefully about IP and the risks of working with a competitor before we could use the opportunity to grow.

The challenge

At the end of 2006, we were approached by IBM, who wanted to partner with us to provide 'Idea Central' software to its potential clients. However, there was a problem. IBM already had software that competed with ours, and were not prepared or able to give assurance that our intellectual property would not be compromised. IBM also could not tell us who the prospective clients were. So the question was, should we partner with IBM or not?

The solution

We decided to give IBM access to the Idea Central software to share client insights and to invest in the relationship. This was the right move as it rapidly created a sense of trust between us and them, and gave IBM the opportunity to uncover the reason why we are so successful in this niche area, and why they should be closer partners for the long term. In particular, the practical experience of implementing large-scale systems across all kinds of industries and countries over a ten-year span gave IBM the confidence that we not only knew what we were doing, but also that we had unique insights to bring to the relationship and to client engagements.

In mid 2007, we signed a global reseller agreement and IBM has become our core strategic partner. We are now an IBM Premier Business Partner.

Key lesson

Sometimes you have to take risks to grow your business. In this case, the decision was taken by me, in spite of concerns across the company.

Top tip

You cannot grow a business by being afraid and talking yourself out of doing things. Great entrepreneurs need to be comfortable taking risks, especially those that can materially boost your business.

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