The wisdom of partnership

Faced with pressure on all fronts to compete in a global economy characterized by lower entry barriers, specialized and fragmented markets, and technological developments, a growing number of companies are pooling resources to bring better products and services to market in a faster, more flexible and more efficient manner.

Through these collaborative arrangements, companies hope to share knowledge, skills, technologies, products or markets that would otherwise be too costly to develop alone. Partnering reflects an appreciation of the limited resources companies have to gain access to new markets, learn a new technology or develop a new product. 

As defined by Michael Cunningham, author of Partners.Com — How to Profit from the New DNA of Business, these network partnerships enable “a firm’s business model to form a business network of suppliers, buyers, customers, facilitators, trading centers, stores and others, resulting in more effective and efficient delivery of products and services to the market.”

Naleduff and Brandenburger’s seminal book, Co-opetition, introduced the term “value net” to describe a network comprising a company, customers, suppliers, competitors and complementors; the partnerships or interdependencies among them; and how this can create and deliver value to the entire network. 

The benefits of partnerships to business performance are well-documented. However, what managers perhaps fail to recognize are the indirect benefits to society as a whole.

Through collaborative arrangements, companies can bring better products to consumers, thereby uplifting the quality of life of the general public. As an example, the standards that define how mobile phones “talk” to each other are defined through a collaborative arrangement among cellular phone and telecommunication equipment manufacturers. Now, people around the world enjoy the benefits of being connected. Locally, we have recently seen two of the biggest media networks collaborate and partner in creating new content to distribute not only here but also globally.


Moreover, partnerships among companies capitalizing on each other’s strengths result in better service delivery. This is exemplified by improvements in after-sales support activities through the outsourcing of business process operations (BPOs). This partnership between companies and BPOs has led to far better handling of inquiries and complaints and, therefore, customer satisfaction.


To be noted too is that partnerships result in cost efficiencies due to the pooling of resources among partnering firms to jointly learn new technologies and develop new products, which further leads to lower prices that obviously benefit consumers.

Partnering firms with their long-term relationships in collaborating for business results can further enhance and strengthen themselves by jointly engaging directly in socially responsible activities. Because one of the reasons why some companies do not invest in corporate social responsibility is limited funds, firms together with partners can pool resources to give something back to society, be it a joint charitable undertaking or an environmental conservation program. We see many of these efforts happening between the private sector and nonprofit organizations. 

Companies are taking a more active role in the communities where they operate, forging partnerships not only with suppliers, customers and competitors but also with educational institutions, nongovernment organizations, government agencies, religious organizations and other community-based groups to address a wide variety of social and environmental issues.

By pooling their limited resources, community-based organizations and companies alike aim to address pressing issues such as education, environmental sustainability, poverty alleviation, and the like. 

Companies can reap the benefits from community partnerships. According to the global organization Business for Social Responsibility, “community partnerships are built on shared or complementary strengths of companies and their partners, and can involve one or more of the following activities: information exchanges, research, contributions of company personnel or resources, promotional efforts, and the development or strengthening of community services and capabilities. Benefits to companies include developing trust and goodwill in communities, securing or expanding market position, enhancing brand image, improving risk management, and attracting and retaining employees.”

The wisdom of partnerships between companies lies in the pooling of resources for business or CSR undertakings that indirectly or directly impact society as a whole. Partnerships are not limited to companies but, more importantly, may also be between firms and community-based organizations to help uplift society while deriving business benefits as well. 


Kay Calpo Lugtu is the chief operating officer of Hungry Workhorse, a digital and culture transformation firm. Her advocacies include food innovation, nation-building and sustainability. The author can be reached at