How to foster successful, strategic cross-border partnerships
Successful cross-border partnerships are the backbone of thriving export ventures (for products and services alike). Even in our technologically advanced society today, they can be the distinguishing competitive advantage, just as they have been throughout human trade history. However, they require hard work and patience. In the following I will aim at describing the key requirements that we have seen throughout our experience with managing JV’s between Germany, Iran, and China.
Throughout the past years we have built several strategic partnerships with people far away and from different cultures. Although there is no clear recipe for building a successful strategic cross-border partnership, I do believe that three pillars are of absolute necessity:
Communication – Only through constructive communication can a partnership work that is thousands of kilometers apart. I have often seen that German business people believe that they can travel to Iran or China and establish a partnership within a week, after several intense meetings. They forget that communication differs greatly from culture to culture, and that they need to put effort in order to understand what their potential partner might require. Mis-communication happens on a daily basis between people who live in the same country, work in the same office, and know each other for years – no surprise that it will happen with partners from a different culture that live far away.
For sustainable partnerships constructive communication is absolutely necessary, and proper communication takes time to establish.
Time – We have come to learn that any partnership with substance needs time to develop. Only time enables both parties to get to know each other, and to understand each other. Failure will accompany time, and makes people learn about each other.
In my opinion only failure will ultimately connect two parties, and it is during tough times that people show their true face. Only over time trust will be established, which in turn will foster respect.
Respect – An attitude, but also an undertaking that takes time and thorough communication. Empathy is a pre-requisite for respect in my opinion, being able to understand how the other person feels and functions, and to respect that even if it is very different, and at times might seem odd. We only work together with people (internally and externally) that understand to be respectful, and possess the ability of empathy. When we share workload, we always try to make it as easy as possible for the receiving party, by trying to think on how they will perceive this input and by improving it accordingly.
I believe respect is important in any culture, and is the backbone of any social activity. Empathy is the key tool required for unlocking respect.
The three pillars will lay the foundation for the definition and understanding of common values, and based on them a shared vision can be established, with clear targets and goals. Of course it depends on what someone is looking for – it is our aim and philosophy to built long-term partnerships, as they create the most value, and justify the time and effort required.
Every market has its own culture and way of doing things. Especially in countries like Iran and China, the cultural part is a major aspect. All the more a trusted local partner is the key for success. In my opinion it is absolutely necessary to build a deep relationship, which takes time and effort.
If you want to enter a foreign market, you need local partners with complimentary skills that are aligned in terms of interest (mutual benefit) and value – the foundation for that is communication, time, and respect.
ILIA Corporation Managing and Founding Partner Marlon D. Jünemann