Running an alliance is a lot like running a marathon, said John-Marc Clark, managing director of global SI sales at Citrix Systems. “Both cover long distances at a fast pace over a long period of time. Strategy, planning, perseverance, consistent training, and teamwork are critical success factors. And you can measure the results,” he noted during his talk “Going Global: When the Whole is Greater than the Sum of the Parts,” at the 2016 Global Alliance Summit, “Partnering Everywhere: Expert Leadership for the Ecosystem,” held at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, National Harbor, Maryland.
Clark has been “running” in international alliance marathons for years for Florida-based Citrix—with record-breaking companies such as Tokyo-based Fujitsu, an information technology equipment and services company. Fijitsu is Citrix’s No. 1 partner out of the company’s 10,000 partners, said Clark. It is the largest IT company in Japan—providing technology ranging from super computers to smart phones. “Two or three of the largest Citrix-led deals worldwide were with Fijitsu. We share a pipeline, and we have an open kimono in regard to our business together. We have top-down sponsorship at the CEO level for entire regions, which is very important.”
The metrics show the partnership is “growing like crazy,” he added. The Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) has been 15 percent over five years for Citrix-based bookings. “Both companies bring tremendous assets to the equation” and incredible customers, such as the German Federal Employment Agency, which is working on locating jobs for one million refugees streaming in from Syria, he noted.
This marathon “has really been a fantastic journey,” he continued, while launching into the fascinating cultural aspects of doing business with a Japanese company. In the beginning, the 15-year plus partnership “was not a true global alliance. It was more like an assembly of relationships. I was not an alliance manager—I was asked to go into this role because I am highly international. I speak four languages,” he explained. “I knew no one at Fijitsu, which was a big problem.” In one early meeting, “the Fijitsu participants never said a word,” he recalled. “It was more like a ceremonial meeting.”
As he studied Japanese culture and the new business dynamics, Citrix’s alliance with Fijitsu blossomed. The following hurdles were critical in developing the international partnership, Clark said:
- Be like Tom Sawyer, who convinced 15 people to paint a fence—build virtual teams and communication. Don’t make it your project. Make it our project. Use E-mail distribution lists and Share File on the cloud. Communicate constantly, and do your best to link people together. Go out of your way to take your alliance into company events, and always have a one-line elevator pitch. Global organizations don’t collaborate very well: “Your role is the connective tissue.”
- Don’t default to travel, but don’t underestimate the power of travel. If you really want to build a relationship, go there to seal the deal: “’When in doubt, go on the road,’ a boss once told me. In the beginning, it was imperative. It legitimized me in the eyes of Fijitsu,” he recalled.
- Establish trust and integrity: If trust is lost, all future negotiation is lost. In a massive and complex organization, identify the critical people with which to establish relationships: “I first worked on integrity and building solid relationships because it was a way to handle potentially contentious and litigious situations.”
- Create and review a plan; apply precise metrics. Have a tight explanation on what the value proposition is for your company, your partner, and the client. Act on things that are measurable. Read the book The Four Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Jim Huling, and Sean Covey.
- Have well-written, organized, and fair contracts. “When I came onboard, there were 70 contracts with Fijitsu. It was like black magic: We had people who only knew what the terms were. There is only one now. I believe in the model that when Dec. 31 comes around, everything should auto-renew and harmonize,” he added.