The Nr.1 Thing That Matters In A Partnership

Everytime I look at the notebook we made for United Airlines I remember several memories. I remember the first UA flight I took many years ago. I was very young in my late 20’s and I flew to California to get my business coaching certificate. I remember the amusing (and rather unusual) announcement they made when the plane was landing: We’re here folks!

Years later when I was becoming a seasoned entrepreneur I read a book called “Pour Your Heart Into It” by Howard Schultz, Starbucks’ legendary founder. One of the impressive stories he told was the partnership with United Airlines. In 1995 UA was interested in Starbucks to be able to provide quality coffee to its employees and customers but Starbucks regretfully had to turn them down the first time because of the concerns they had about not being able to maintain Starbucks quality potentially jeopardizing the “trust” of the customers in the brand. Apparently in long flights, UA needed to brew coffee in flight which would hurt the quality due to varying quality and taste of the water UA gets from cities they go, due to the brewing standards that flight attendants can’t honor etc etc.

But UA wanted this deal so negotiations went on and they agreed on training UA flight attendants comprehensively as well as modifying the brewing equipment on planes. It took them 4 months to stabilize Starbucks quality on flights while resisting the complaints from customers by sincere efforts on both sides.

Howard Schultz talks about how they meticulous they are when it comes to choosing partnerships. Where most see it as a tactical task Schultz see it from the strategic point of view. Partnerships should be seen like marriage – long-term “relationships” rather than just “supplying and selling a product”. Only then it can be beneficial to both parties in terms of both profits and brand-building.

So to him the nr.1 most important ingredient of long-term relationships is TRUST. Especially when there are problems and there will be problems – guaranteed. If you can’t trust your partner to cooperate and to give their best to fix them how can you keep sustainable business?

How do you know that you can trust another company? By looking at their values. By checking if they recognize your values. Schultz talks about the fact that they flirted with other airline companies before UA but UA was the one they “liked”. He actually emphasizes the word in its literal meaning: They actually liked interacting with each other because their attitude toward business matched.

Think about how you choose your suppliers. Think about what kind of problems you encounter and why it happens. Especially the ones that are occurring repeatedly. Is their attitude supporting your business or hurting it?

At Dival we are dedicated to being the best partner for our agency and distributor clients for the long haul. We know how stressful it can be to serve global brands. That’s why honesty, hard work and determination are our cultural values.

Well, I am looking forward to producing a special journal for Starbucks one day! Anyone who is friends with Howard Schultz?

By Sue Begum Bulut – Director, North America