Working in a Strategic Partnerships Department
DateApr 18, 2019
In this edition of Digging Deeper, we sat down with our Strategic Partnerships Assistant to find out what’s it really like to be a part of the Strategic Partnerships Department at Bornfight.
First question – what exactly is Strategic Partnerships and what does this department do?
Well, one of our main characteristics is that we always try to develop long-lasting relationships with our clients – a sort of a deep partnership that leads to great results and the overall growth in our clients’ businesses. We are our clients’ consultants – we advise them on what a good next step would be for their business, help them with difficult strategic decisions and guide them towards solutions that can help their business.
To be successful in that, we work closely with the Project Management department in Bornfight, as well as all other production departments. We use their knowledge, inputs and expertise to present our clients with different ways we can help them and their businesses.
One of the main pillars of our team is to understand our clients, their goals, different industries, markets, business models and trends to be able to successfully consult our clients on the optimal step they need to take in order to achieve their goals. And the way we do it is through continuous communication and building deep relationships.
So, it’s more about relationship building than about sales?
Well, sales is one of the aspects of our work – we need to know how to present ourselves and our company in order to reach new clients, relevant projects and great references. But when this aspect is done, we as members of the Strategic Partnerships Department (SPD) are not – we guide our clients through the entire production process, from the initial contact, through the development of the solution and all the way to project launch and beyond.
When a project is finished, we communicate with our clients to make sure that the delivered solution meets their expectations and achieves goals that we defined. We keep analysing their business, proposing different ways to further upgrade their businesses and work as their long-term business consultants. That’s the main reason why building relationships is a more important aspect than the sales aspect of our work.
You are really focused on building long-lasting partnerships with clients. What’s the secret sauce, what makes Bornfight so good at it?
Just to make it clear, we also have clients that are on a ‘one and done’ basis and we will always have those. That’s just how the market works, but we have an extremely small amount of those clients – it’s somewhere below 20% of all clients.
As for clients who are open to long-lasting relationships, we make sure to thoroughly keep analyzing their business and the entire industry to be able to suggest and show them the right solutions for their business. And to, of course, tell them directly, openly and transparently when something is not logical, profitable or wouldn’t work in the long run. We actually got a lot of feedback from our clients about that direct style of communication with them – they really appreciate this ‘no sugar-coating, no bullshit’ approach because it’s something that really differentiates us from others.
This approach is something we focus on throughout the company – we tell it how it really is because we know our client’s success and progress leads to our success and progress. So we always make sure our solutions are top quality and made to achieve all set goals.
OK, let’s switch it up a bit. Tell me how is our Strategic Partnerships Department organized.
There are currently 4 of us in the team, and as it happens, we are all on different positions so I’ll briefly describe each. I started on a Strategic Partnerships Intern position, which is a student position in our team. From there I was promoted to the Assistant – a junior position in our team. I mostly work on smaller project and handle clients in cooperation with other members in the team. The middle position in the team is the Strategic Partnerships Executive – this is where you start handling bigger projects and clients on your own. A step above is the position of a Strategic Partnerships Team Lead – he handles large clients and is the main mentor in our team. He’s the person we all talk to when we need advice or stumble upon an issue we can’t or don’t know how to resolve. And the last one is a Strategic Partnerships Director – the leader of our entire department whose main job is to set goals and guide the development of the entire department according to the company vision and strategy.
As for specialization – within the team we’re not specialized according to some specific services or industries, as our goal is to be generalists that can handle all our clients’ needs. You see, we have a lot of long-lasting clients that usually start with a single project and, through the years, that ends up being multiple projects across multiple services and sometimes multiple industries. It really isn’t logical or practical to throw our clients around depending on the type of the project, so all of us in the team work hard to get to know all the industries and become proficient in all of the services so that we could provide our clients with the most optimal communication setup, as well as the insights and solutions that will help them grow their businesses.
And what about your cooperation with other departments and teams in Bornfight – how is that set up?
Well, I can say this varies from project to project, but in regards to communication with the client – there are two ways we do it in Bornfight. It goes directly from the SPD team to the client, as well as from the Project Management team to the client – the point here is that the Project Management department is responsible for the operative aspect of our client’s project, while we in the SPD team are responsible for our client’s overall satisfaction. So both of our teams are usually in constant communication with the client, but depending on the type, complexity and the duration of the project the percentage shifts from one department to the other.
During some really long projects, it’s not unusual to have the Project Management department handle the majority of the communication with the client, but we in the SPD team always make sure to chime in to check out on their needs and make sure they’re satisfied with the way the project is going. On some other projects, it’s also not unusual that the entire communication with the client goes through the SPD team – it all depends on the project and client preferences. We always try to find the best and the most effective way to communicate that will make the process of handling the project as smooth as possible.
So, you’re fully involved in the initial phases of the project…
Exactly, the SPD team is involved in all initial meetings and discovery workshops because we are the client’s first contact with Bornfight, we researched their industry, know their needs, what goals they want to achieve, some of the issues and challenges they’re facing as well as the situation on the market.
This insight is what we in the SPD team need to process, organize and present to our production team together with the clients. So yeah, we handle all of these aspects I just mentioned, as well as a couple of additional ones like business models, markets, industries…we are the ones who need to research, gather and organize all available information on the client, the project and the overall business situation so we need to be present during all of the initial phases of the project and onboard the production part of the Bornfight team.
This ties in nicely with the next question – what are some of the key skills that are crucial for a person in the Strategic Partnerships Department?
In our department, and generally in our line of work, there’s a specific set of competencies that are really necessary to be proficient at what we do. Some of them are extremely complex and you need years of practice and experience before you’re able to say you’re proficient and that you can successfully perform them.
One of the most important ones are highly developed communication skills, this is important even on the Intern position. Other competencies that we find important are the abilities to understand client business and the ways different industries work, understanding the market is also important as are different types of business models and business strategies. Another thing that’s really important is understanding the legal side of business – as I said, we are our client’s consultants so we need to know if something our clients plans to do is within the legal boundaries. Relationship building, consulting, sales and negotiation are also on the list of skills that are quite important for all members of the Strategic Partnerships Department.
Some of these competencies and skills are basic and simple to master, while others take years just to be good at. In the SPD team, we want to be good at all of them – we all start with the basics and educate ourselves through organized workshops, research, reading, researching other agencies, checking out best practices… there are numerous ways to gain knowledge, and we don’t limit ourselves when it comes to sources because we know that being proficient in the skills I mentioned above will enable us to better guide our clients towards success.
OK, tell me more about personal and professional development – how are your goals set up?
The great thing about Bornfight is that we all have mentors and team leaders – and we define our goals and talk with them about our personal and professional development. There are actually several levels of activities regarding the overall growth and development of people within Bornfight, so I’ll briefly cover all of them.
The first level are our weekly department meetings where we talk about what we’ll do next week, set up weekly focuses and prioritize. Because of the dynamic nature of our work, we need to set focuses and priorities to keep us on track. These weekly meetings are great because we talk about projects, what we did, what lies ahead and the overall workload – this helps us see if someone needs more support and how we’re standing as a team.
The next level would be monthly Quality Time meetings with our team lead – they are one on one meetings during which we talk about various challenges and issues we faced, go through our goals and talk about our own development within Bornfight. These meetings are extremely open, transparent and direct, and we’re all encouraged to talk about all of our needs, as well as personal and professional goals we want to achieve. They are great because you can really figure out where you want to be and how you can grow within Bornfight – you really see all of the possibilities.
One step above is the quarterly planning. This is where we take our company’s strategy and vision and create detailed plans of development for our department. We also use these plannings to define our quarterly focuses and goals and talk about how we want to develop our team and ourselves.
And the final step would be organized meets about professional development that are held every 6 months. They are fully structured and we go through various topics regarding our overall satisfaction, our performance, our needs, our goals, feedback and a lot of other things that show us what we do well and what we could do better, as well as what we think the entire company does well and where it needs to improve.
In addition to all of this, we also organize a variety of teambuildings, informal get togethers, workshops and educations where we connect with each other, share knowledge, or just hang out.
Can you give me an example of a weekly focus and a quarterly focus?
Well, my focus for this week was – I’m currently working on a project that’s quite big, so this week I need to research the industry and the client’s needs, analyze his idea, gather the production team to get an estimate on the idea and send an official offer to the client. So, my weekly focus is to send an offer to the client, but as you can see, it’s tied in with a couple of smaller tasks that need to be achieved first in order for me to be able to achieve this main one.
As for the quarterly focus, I told you about the educations we conduct. Well, one of my quarterly focuses is to organize and create a detailed plan of internal educations we’ll be conducting during the next three months.
Let’s switch it up again. Tell me about the onboarding process within the Strategic Partnerships Department.
One of the first things of the onboarding process was getting to know the clients and their businesses, as well as the projects we worked and work on. I also immediately received a detailed plan of the projects I’ll start to work on and the timeline when that will happen, so that I could prepare in advance. Also, whenever I took on myself something new or started a new task, I’d go over the details with more experienced members in the team – we’d go over the steps, and defined goals and expectations.
In time, the tasks grew bigger, my responsibilities increased, but because the entire process was very detailed, I never felt to be far outside of my comfort zone. It was enough to challenge me, but not so much that I wouldn’t know what to do. I believe that’s the reason I learned so much so quickly, and it helped me get quickly promoted from the Strategic Partnerships Intern to the Assistant.
Now that we covered all these aspects, tell me what was the thing that made you apply and joined this team?
I applied because I wanted to work with clients, but not like sales. I wanted to work on some higher level where I can help them grow their business and guide them towards success and progress. I liked this position because it’s really broad and you can try different things and learn a lot. Another thing that made me apply were the products we are developing and the projects we work on, as well as the really strong focus on strategy, consulting and the need to always look at the bigger picture. We really go above and beyond to get to know the market and our client’s overall business, and that leads to building really strong relationships with them – for me, that’s the core of the SPD team.
This was obviously one of the biggest benefits for you. What other benefits of working at Bornfight would you single out?
Well, one of the main benefits is certainly the transparency when it comes to work and the open communication among different departments. This means we all have a chance to know what everyone else is doing and to learn so much from each other, which is especially useful for all of us in the SPD team, as we can just soak up all the knowledge and all the insight, and ultimately grow on multiple levels at once.
Another thing I really have to point out is the culture, the relationships between people and the overall work atmosphere. I don’t know, I just love going to work every day!
OK, last question before we wrap this up. What’s the mindset of the Strategic Partnerships Department, what’s the thing that drives you in your work?
We all, of course, have goals we want to achieve and that certainly has an impact, but at the end of the day, what really drives us is the possibility to work on really interesting projects with advanced technologies, and to build partnerships with clients who want to use technologically advanced solutions to upgrade and grow their businesses.
When we have the opportunity to work on something that’s new, innovative and edgy – that’s what always pushes us to go even further and dig deeper. Especially when we see how excited and amped up about the projects are members of other teams in Bornfight. It really pushes you to give your max when you know the work you did is a part of the reason we got the project!