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Strategic Partnerships: Why They Should Matter to You

Posted By Bill Jourdan, Monday, October 26, 2015

 PS Magazine editors recently spoke with PSDA board member Bill Jourdan, president and CEO of Reign Print Solutions, Inc. in Arlington Heights, Illinois, about his perspective on industry partnerships, specifically between distributors and manufacturers. Here, he shares why he thinks business owners today should be more open to working more collaboratively, consultatively and innovatively in order to solve clients' problems.

Why is the partnership between distributors and manufacturers important for the industry and for individual businesses?
In my opinion, the idea of a strategic partnership goes well beyond the typical manufacturer-distributor relationship. "You provide me a price list and product features and benefits, maybe some samples, and then I buy this from you and sell to another party." You may laugh at that, but this is how a lot of members still function today. For the membership to not only survive, but to thrive, we all need to better engage and collaborate. Work together to become more innovative and to help solve clients' problems. That's why we are all in business — to be truly innovative. One should not go it alone. 

What do you think is the first step toward building stronger partnerships?
There are three first steps, actually. First — it's all about internal culture and mindset. You and those in your organization all have to realize the value of your partners and how critical they are to your future success. Today, far too many distributors, and manufacturers, too, for that matter, try to do everything themselves. Or they continue to do things as they always have. Not only do we need to hire and train the right employees, we should also leverage the right strategic partners. That is, find the right partners who will help both parties achieve more success. 

Then, sit down with your management team and map out a strategy. Ask, "What is our growth plan, and what partners will help us get there?" Pick a few of these possible partners to target (PSDA already has an excellent stable of partners, right there and waiting). Consider those who can help you from a technology, sales and marketing, and financial perspective, as all areas can be crucial to your specific needs. Pick a leader who can drive this initiative. This is critical.

Lastly, hold strategic planning meetings between the key stakeholders of both companies. Is there synergy? Can you help each other achieve agreed-upon goals? What will it take (support and training) to get to those goals? What are the measurables? You'll both need some "skin in the game" to succeed. 

How have you done this within your own company?
From day one, we have not hidden the fact that we are part of a strong national network of print resource experts — a huge $5 billion dollar supply chain that encompasses the "best of the best" in print and marketing related services. We proclaim that we have every "expert" imaginable, right at our fingertips. We have always tried to work closely with our manufacturing and supply partners through a strength-in-numbers mentality, bringing them in when necessary to help find and close new business, in either existing accounts or new markets. We are certainly not perfect, but we realize the importance of these partnerships and are continually looking for new and creative ways to maximize our relationships. Keeping our best partners "close to the deal" brings added expertise and confidence to the client, while also minimizing the margin for error — a win-win for everyone!

I also want to point out that as strongly as we feel about the importance of partnerships, we do realize that this is not for everyone. 

What would you say some would consider is the "downside" to distributors and manufacturers working more closely together? And how do you combat that notion?
Lack of commitment is one downside. I also think that lack of trust has been a deterrent. It is really no one's fault. I think it is simply a product of how the industry has evolved over the past 10 years. The marketplace now has more educated end users because of the Internet. Strategic sourcing management is forcing commodity-like pricing on print, and technology is changing how companies use and view print. The PSDA supply chain had become less of a melting pot of organizations and a bit more like a salad bowl — all of us tossed together, working more independently than as a melded, cohesive unit. It is my opinion that, collectively and collaboratively, the PSDA members can better band together, possibly in small contingencies at first to help rebuild the commitment and trust.

Do you think we'll ever get to the point where the distributor / manufacturer relationship is naturally more of a team or partnership? 
I think we can certainly get better, possibly get back to our roots, if we laser-focus more on consultative value and less on price. So many are already there. The most successful strategic partnerships have structure, accountability and encourage company-wide collaboration. 

PSDA recently enacted a "Strategic Partnerships Task Force." This initiative is a direct result of engaging conversations that took place at this year’s CEO Summit and P2P Solutions Summit. This taskforce of distributors, manufacturers and suppliers will be collaborating on bringing new tools and ideas to the membership over the next year, so stay tuned for more information that will surely bring value to us all.

Tags:  Strategic partnerships 

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