ASAP’s Summit Kicks Off with Partnering as a Path to Growth, Even—or Especially—in a Pandemic
Day one of ASAP’s first-ever virtual Global Alliance Summit got off to a great start today, with opening remarks by ASAP president and CEO Mike Leonetti and board chair Brooke Paige, along with two fascinating keynotes and the ASAP Alliance Excellence Awards presentation.
Leonetti began by thanking everyone not only for gathering together virtually, but for “sticking with us” as both the date and format of the Summit had to be changed due to the coronavirus pandemic. He also noted that alliances and partnerships everywhere are still working hard and driving business growth, as well as “saving the world” by collaborating in efforts to combat and mitigate the effects of COVID-19. He also reminded everyone that “even though we can’t get together, we can learn from each other” via ASAP tools and publications, 365 days a year, and that the goal of all our partnering efforts is “not only to survive the new normal, but to thrive and prosper.”
Paige also acknowledged that “the world looks completely different now from when we were last together,” but said that given the economic and health challenges of the pandemic, “there has never been a better time for alliance management.” She felt that alliances and partnerships actually have “an incredible role” to play in countering the pandemic and its effects.
Fighting Cancer and Learning to Be a Good Partner
This remark was reinforced by the first keynote this morning, given by Dr. Louis B. Harrison, MD, FASTRO, vice president, chief partnership officer, and chair of the radiation oncology department at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla. “A Cancer Center’s Experience Developing Clinical Partnerships and Alliances: Opportunities and Cautions” showed how a top-flight US cancer research center has used partnerships to increase patient access and provide more widespread cancer treatment in various communities—especially important now, given the greatly reduced travel due to COVID-19.
Dr. Harrison admitted that he is not an alliance professional and is still “a rookie” when it comes to alliance management, but stressed that “we can’t just do business the way we used to” and that it’s up to institutions like his center to do their best to learn to “be a good partner” in order to further the goal of better and more widespread health care. And in any partnership, he said, “They have to want you, you have to want them, and you have to behave in such a way that you bring it all together in a win-win.” (For more on Dr. Harrison and his work, see my June 8 ASAP blog post, “‘A Commonality of Spirit’: How a Cancer Center Partners to Help More Patients.”)
Music to the ears of the assembled alliance management multitudes tuning in to ASAP on Vimeo for this virtual Summit, no doubt. Similarly, the next keynote also hit some familiar notes, but with variations appropriate to the different times in which we find ourselves these days.
Get Smart and Get Growing
Tiffani Bova is a growth and innovation evangelist at Salesforce, as well as the author of the book Growth IQ: Get Smarter About the Choices That Will Make or Break Your Business (Portfolio/Penguin, 2018), the host of the What’s Next! podcast, and a frequent contributor to Forbes and other publications. Her presentation, “The Untapped Gold Mine of Building Trust, Unconventional Affiliations, and Iteration-Based Partnerships,” aimed to shed some light on what might be the best path or paths to the “New Future,” as she put it.
Bova challenged companies to ask themselves: “If we could do anything now, what would it be, in order to get us to this new future?” In her view, this should be subdivided into three phases, or tracks:
- Stabilize the business by mitigating short-term risks.
- Get people back to work—not necessarily back to the office, but productively employed as much as possible.
- Get back on track to growth, and remember that your customers and partners are going through this same journey as well.
In looking toward and navigating future growth, Bova highlighted four “focus areas” businesses can use. These are:
- Experience: This includes creating and delivering a beneficial experience to customers, partners, and the supply chain.
- Innovation: Noting that the pandemic-related shutdowns of retail and other businesses demonstrated a prior lack of investment in innovation, Bova pointed to shifts to digital, agility, use of communications, and ecosystems as ways of promoting innovation. (She also noted that “digital transformation” doesn’t mean just technology, but actually should be viewed through the lens of “people and process.”)
- Trust: Saying that studies have shown that businesses and consumers don’t trust brands—especially in the way they use their data—Bova posited trust as the “barometer” or “backbone of the relationship” between businesses and their customers and partners.
- Values: An important component of a brand in attracting employees, partners, and customers. At Bova’s own company, Salesforce, establishing values has meant supporting communities, using technology for good, and providing “help for everyone,” especially in the current conditions. This includes direct investments, having a 90-day no-layoff pledge, and collaborating with some of its partners such as AWS, Google, and Apple to provide aid to communities.
Pivoting and Partnering in the “New Future”
For Bova, “partnering in the new future” will mean maximizing existing business; entering new markets, regions, and industries; and launching new products. “This is not a time to cut back on costs,” she said, but rather represents an opportunity to leverage existing assets and capabilities to pave the way for future growth.
In looking back over the weeks and months of the pandemic, Bova said there’s been “a burst of learning” since early March, when the US along with many other parts of the world began in one way or another to shut down. One of the lessons has been “how quickly we needed to pivot,” she acknowledged, saying that using partnerships and coopetition are two of the ten paths to growth laid out in her book, Growth IQ. Even pre-COVID-19, more than half of CEOs saw creating new partnerships as a viable path to growth, but most of them also said that fewer than 60 percent of those partnerships have proven to be effective.
Bova added that the tenth path to growth in her book is “unconventional strategies,” and these include establishing partnerships with “unlikely bedfellows” and “disrupting current thinking.” She encouraged CEOs and other senior leaders to think seriously about what kinds of partnerships would help get them through the three phases of stability, getting back to work, and getting back to growth, and not to be swayed by some of the rumored downsides of partnerships: e.g., that they are too big and unmanageable, or that partnering means “we don’t make any money,” or that “we don’t own the customer.”
Tying some of these strands together, Bova asserted, “Your greatest sales force is your customers and partners advocating on your behalf.” If indeed partnering is one of those “unconventional strategies” she recommended, it looks like it’s one that, handled with care and best practices, should start propelling more enterprises down the path of future growth.
Keep checking this blog for more to come on the ASAP Global Alliance Summit, including the Alliance Excellence Award winners, highlights of the livestream presentations, and on-demand sessions as well.