Rachel Stow and Dickon Tysoe reflect on the requirements for successful business partnering.

The long-standing relationship between our businesses, motorcycle specialists Thorneycroft Solicitors and insurance claims-handling firm Bankstone, has been hugely successful for both, yet not all partnerships enjoy such longevity.

We each have a range of strategic partnerships and have reaped the business benefits that a good partnership can bring.

Approached in the right manner, and for the right reasons, strategic partnerships can be transformational. So what are the rules for forming a successful strategic partnership?

Firstly, and it might sound obvious, business relationships are just the same as personal relationships. Yet it’s amazing just how many businesses choose a partner with which they share few similarities. You don’t need to be carbon copies of each other but you do need to share some key characteristics. For us, we had each built successful businesses on the founding principle that the client was central to our business.

Sharing this key characteristic meant many of our systems mirrored each other, enabling us to join processes efficiently for the clients’ benefit. Sharing the same values that put the client first also means that, while we operate as separate companies, the client does not notice the transition as their work moves from Bankstone to Thorneycroft.

Going into a strategic relationship with the right expectations that are understood and accepted on both sides is crucial. Our partnership was formed with the long term in mind, neither of our businesses take a short-term approach and this was important so that we could manage expectations appropriately. We made sure that there was never a ‘them’ and ‘us’ scenario on either side.  

We were also honest about the strengths and weaknesses of both businesses and to this day there remains a willingness to share and learn together. This shared learning has been particularly useful when dealing with different regulatory approaches as set down by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, the Ministry of Justice and the Financial Conduct Authority.

Strong foundations built on shared interests, goals and characteristics will allow you to work together to ride out any significant sector changes.

While the well-documented regulatory reform that hit the PI market just over a year ago came as no great surprise, the ambiguity around the plans and the tardiness in making official announcements, were challenging.

We listened to each other’s concerns, challenges and ideas and then agreed a fluid plan that is working well for both our businesses and will likely see us work even more closely in the future. Relationships that show signs of differing agendas and ego from either side will fall apart at the slightest sign of external pressure.

Of course every strategic relationship will be different but these top five tips should help you maintain a successful partnership:  

1) Choose who you work with carefully; do your due diligence and find a partner that has shared values and approaches;

2) Set collective objectives and expectations rather than a list of things each party has to do. Avoid dividing the relationship with “them” and “us” language;

3) Wherever possible, treat your strategic partner like one of the team, not another supplier;

4) Don’t expect too much. Commercial logic dictates that you each need to get something out of the relationship, but be realistic at the outset and evolve objectives as the relationship develops;

5) Finally, talk money from the outset. This is an area that causes a breakdown in many business partnerships. Getting clear financial arrangements sorted out early on can save a lot of trouble down the line.

Rachel Stow is Thorneycroft Solicitors’ managing director and Dickon Tysoe is director of Bankstone