A Toxic Strategic Partner is Dangerous

We do need strategic partners to achieve the level of success we want to gain for our organizations.  As much as we don’t want to say it, sometimes we deal with a strategic partner or vendor that are hard to deal with.  In many cases, these people provide professional services, such as legal, accounting/bookkeeping, or other services.
Here are some key points to recognize when a business relationship has become toxic:

You seem to be doing too much of the work that should be done by the strategic partner.

Have you ever felt like you were doing all of the work that you hired someone to do for you and your organization?  Were you ever “forced” to have to put more time and effort into something to get what you needed?  We’re not talking about the task of providing the information that your strategic partner needed for you to compile and provide.  No, we’re talking about working to get the answers you needed, and the work that you needed to be completed that should be done by the strategic partner.  We’re also talking about excessive reviews of everything that is completed by the strategic partners, because you can’t afford to face a mistake that is missed.

You keep making excuses for mistakes and bad service – and you don’t know why.

Have you ever been in situations where you are cleaning up problems and messes that were created by your strategic partner?  Have you faced the challenges where you know you should be receiving better service and performance, but you just can’t get it?  The natural thought that comes to your mind is that you may be expecting too much.  That may be true.  Then, again, maybe it’s not so true.  In response, you try to do all you can to fix the situation on your end by evaluating your side of the relationship – and you can’t find any additional answers to help.  In situations like this, you’re still trying to figure out why you’re dealing with these frustrations as you know you should have better service.

Your strategic partner continues to make excuses for mistakes and bad service – and the answers become increasingly more ineffective.

Have you confronted the strategic partner and received an answer of “we’re sorry, but we’re doing the best we can?”  Have you found that, even after receiving this answer, you aren’t getting any better service?  When you start asking questions, you receive  no good answers – and you’re now receiving a little bit of hostility when you ask.  You now have the feeling that you are in a bad situation which is getting worse.

You have a gut feeling that you’re in for trouble when it comes to dealing with this problematic trend.  

With all of these problems with the strategic partner, you determine what you need to do now.  Consider putting a whole lot of “risk management” steps in place.  Do you need to rescue important data and information?  Are you going to be dealing with a public relations nightmare?  Are they going to cooperate with you if you make the decision to cut off the partnership?  These and a whole lot more questions now come into play.
Let’s look at this for what it really is.  In simple terms, it’s about a lack of trust.
Can you really afford to continue?

What are the costs and benefits for continuing this relationship?

To continue this relationship, you need to determine the costs and benefits.  Don’t just look at it in monetary terms, but in time, attention and emotion.  You really need to be honest, both with yourself and with what’s happening from the partner’s side.  When you put all of the positive and negative consequences together – and you need to complete that work on either a piece of paper or on a computer – does it come out in your favor?  Or in the strategic partner’s favor?  Or in no one’s favor?  If you take this process seriously, it will tell you a story that gives you a current score of what’s happening.  More importantly, it will give you a projected score if you continue with the relationship.

If you are being completely honest, is it really you that is causing the problems?

Sometimes we do cause the problems that we are facing.  We need to be honest about that possibility and to recognize it for what it is.  If we complete an honest analysis, we may find that we deserve what we are receiving.  If we find that we don’t deserve the bad service, then it is up to us to correct it.  Even if it is our fault for most, if not all, of the problems, we still may want to look for a change in strategic partners.  It may be simply because of the fact that we may not be able to repair or restore the relationship to the level everyone needs.
Some additional thoughts to consider:

Sometimes we need a change.

In many cases, everyone tends to get into a “maintain” mode of not doing more or less than what we’ve done in the past.  That tendency can happen with a strategic partner.  We can be taken for granted.  In some cases, a “wake-up call” with the partner may be the best answer as we work to gain realignment on what we need to be accomplishing together.

Sometimes we need to change.

Realize that we may not doing what we should when it comes to our side of the transaction.  The reason that we are frustrated is because we’ve slipped on our standards.  We need to do better.  In this case, we need to reevaluate what we are doing.  We might want to invite a mentor or advisor to help us out to improve our performance.  As we figure out how to improve, we should consider an opportunity to meet with our strategic partner.  That meeting is to determine how we can improve the relationship and to align together again.

Sometimes we need to upgrade.

There are relationships we start with a strategic partner which work into a situation where we need a more skilled or experienced partner than the one we are with.  As much as no one really wants to admit that it is the case, it is the best solution that we are dealing with.  It’s not about condemning the current partner as they have helped us.  Instead, it’s about making a healthy transition to a new strategic partner.  It’s all about the one who can manage our needs at a higher level.
Do yourself a favor and do not postpone dealing with a toxic relationship with a strategic partner.  Be honest, both with the partner and with yourself.  Work to find the best solution for everyone concerned.

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