Top Tips for Collaboration and Partnerships for METS SMEs - Austmine Members Only
On October 8 2015, Austmine held our Quarterly Innovation and Collaboration webinar. This webinar was the second in the series, and focused in on Collaboration and Partnerships, through an interactive panel discussion format. Our speakers included a range of large, medium and start up METS companies, plus insights from the research element of our industry. Collaboration is employed by 39% of Australian METS during the R&D process (source = Austmine National METS Survey Highlights Report 2015), but many still struggle to understand how to begin the process or to attract partners.
Our speakers were: James Balzary from Schneider Electric; Charles Berman from FB Rice; David Brim from Tomcar; Alex Lester from Nautitech Mining Systems; Ryan Norris from Vayeron; Mark Ostwald from Puma Energy; Scott Kelly from Banlaw and Ian Dover from Brisbane Marketing.
We’ve compiled the information shared through this fascinating one hour webinar into a mini-guide for SME METS organisations wishing to initiate partnerships with other players in the sector. Please note – this is aimed at smaller companies wishing to approach more established companies.
- Do your research on prospective partners before approaching. You need to have a clear understanding of the company’s strategy in relation to their client-base, so you can identify how your product/service/offering aligns with that (if indeed it does).
- Ensure you can communicate how your offering will benefit the partner, and more importantly, how it will benefit the partner’s customers. All collaborations should come about from the ability to deliver a better final service or product to the client, or as James from Schneider Electric nicely phrased it, a “building an eco-system that’s valuable for your clients”. If your offering cannot help the partner achieve this, then you are unlikely to be successful in working with them. An important element of this communication is using tested, real world examples, rather than theory. The commercial value proposition of the partnership must be apparent.
- Do your best to identify a sponsor within the business. Engaging with one individual is likely to work better than going in at a company or business unit level. You can discover them by word of mouth, through an event, through a personal recommendation, or via Linkedin. There are numerous channels these days to discovering the right person in a company.
- Where possible, bring a potential project or business opportunity to the table. Don’t be afraid of the larger company stealing it – that’s where you need to make sure your offering is indispensable to the deal! Coming with a specific project in mind makes your partnership more tangible, and easier to visualise in action. It will also mean the potential ROI is closer at hand, which is incredibly important in the current market climate.
- Patience is key! Large companies are generally open to the concept of collaboration at the moment, reflected in Austmine’s member organisations, but these things do not happen quickly in big corporations.
- Put the time and effort into building the relationship with the people and the company. These relationships must have a solid foundation as you will be working closely together if collaboration goes ahead, and for honest and tough conversations to take place, the right base must be in place first.
- Don’t make IP the elephant in the room. Be clear whose IP is on the table from the start, and ensure you have clear contracts and clauses around the further development of any IP. You must ensure IP doesn’t become a blockade to collaboration or innovation; start with the commercial end in mind throughout the whole process and allow that to shape your IP framework and approach. People can become emotionally attached to IP and patents and this should have no place in a commercial arrangement.
- Ongoing and regular communication is critical. Don’t allow the working relationship to become stale once an agreement is signed. The collaboration will only flourish and grow through regular catch ups (face to face, online or telephone). This will also allow ongoing customer feedback to be shared and fed into the partnership to continue improving service delivery.
If you'd like to listen to the full webinar recording for more detail insights into what you should be doing to increase your success in partnerships, you can find it here on our Austmine website. The password is: Collab2015