Mother Nature sure has a way of piling on, doesn’t she? From farm fields to downtown corridors, echoes of “Could have done without that” were heard for days after the Iowa hurricane ripped through our communities.
But, for every terrible circumstance that’s faced Iowans this year, there’s been an incredible show of unity, compassion and self-sacrifice. People from all walks of life have engaged in our state’s healing and recovery at levels I’ve not personally experienced before. Students and caregivers, essential workers and executives… all kinds of people came together to deliver food to neighbors in need, stand in solidarity with peaceful protestors and crank up chainsaws to clear the city of downed trees.
This coming together of Iowans who experience life in completely different ways signals a remarkable evolution of the sentiment “Taking care of your own.” After weathering some really rough times together, we’ve come to see that “your own” is now, and hopefully forever will be, defined as humankind.
The Iowa business community is in a unique position to keep humanity and community at the forefront of their decisions. Executives, senior leaders and other influencers can continue to use their resources for the good of the collective city, state, country, industry (however they define community). One very pragmatic way to do that is through the strategic, intentional development of more local partnerships.
You often hear people say a business partnership is like a marriage, and I tend to agree. To last, both unions take commitment, humility and two-way communication. Another thing business partnerships and marriage have in common is that both are sure to be tested, and that’s a positive thing. The strongest bonds come from triumph over tragedy.
After Iowa’s hurricane took down our fence, my wife and I took one look, and although it was a mess, knew we could tackle the repair together. And we did. In one night. No tears. No yelling. No fights. I can’t say it would have been the same in the first, or even third, year of our marriage. But, we’ve been through some tough times together, and we know what it takes to survive them. Business relationships are no different. To become really solid, leaders on both sides must learn what it takes to keep a mutually beneficial partnership… well… mutually beneficial.
The necessary stick-to-it-tiveness that’s so essential for long-term, profitable partnerships is much easier when partners share a community. There’s an added level of confidence that comes when partners can meet for a meal, catch up at kids’ events or even share pride in their city’s unique resilience in the face of unprecedented pain.
Doing business together is better when you also do life together.
Business partnerships also resemble marriage in that one side is strong where the other is weak and vice versa. This injects a number of necessary capabilities into a modern business, including the ability to scale, to enter new markets, to earn new clients and to grow not only in size and influence, but in expertise.
Working hand-in-hand with a company that shares the context of community accelerates these benefits in many ways, a lot of them unspoken. For instance, Iowa professionals who understand intimately the domino effect of struggling rural economies don’t need to bring an outside sales or customer care partner up to speed. It’s innately understood by both parties. And, when those communities take an extra hit like they did last month, both sides of the partnership are already strategizing ways to help.
This happened with our bank recently when a client needed more affordable payment processing services. Our local partner, Professional Solutions, took a second look at pricing for the Bank Iowa client, and we were ultimately able to come away with a terrific three-way deal. (BTW, my contact at Professional Solutions also offered to help with our downed fence.)
In no way are we out of the woods that 2020 sprouted. Our country, our state and our individual communities have a long way to go before we return to normal. In some ways, we may never return to normal. Many decisions will need to be made as we navigate these uncharted waters. Who will be best equipped to make that journey with is? The people in the boat one wave over, or the company an ocean away?