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William L. Shannon, Editor

William L. Shannon, Editor of CISCA

Partnering, the Correct Choice for Your Company?

for the September / October 2006 Issue, CISCA's Interior Construction Magazine

Much has been written about partnering in the past few years, and not just in relation to the construction industry. Partnering is not a new concept; it is the foundation for many life experiences, both personal and business. One of the major obstacles to effective partnering, in personal or business life is trust. Partnering simply does not work if any of the participants cannot trust those with whom they are considering to partner with.

Partnering is counter intuitive to some, who have lived their lives simply looking for the most expeditious approach to a problem. Giving no thought about the long term ramifications of their actions. The possibility of long term benefits, working closely with another. Developing mutually beneficial results.

The interior construction industry, like so many other parts of our lives, is made up of numerous types of people. Some rely upon the substitution, low price, marginal quality approach to a project; others do their best to provide their client with the intended materials and systems, while providing a competitive price. This approach generally requires partnering at many levels of the project.

A really successful partnering experience would include, The Owner, Architect, General Contractor, Sub Contractors, Independent Manufacturers' Representative, Distributors and Manufacturers! Quite an impressive list of participants and seemingly impossible to have this entire group players act as a team. Surprisingly, most really complex projects depend upon this type of teamwork.

Think of how many project problems are eliminated in a successfully completed Partnered Project! Most importantly all of the participants have the same goal, a project constructed as envisioned by the owner, as designed by the architect and as estimated by all members of the construction team.

Partnering eliminates a complete layer of potential disagreements in material or process. Participants in the process purposefully go out of their way to avoid disagreements and work diligently to work out the problems is the least costly manner possible. Meetings tend to be problem solving events and not lengthy missions in futility. Those who have worked on a project based upon the partnering concept report that the projects tend to be more profitable and that they generally result in repeat opportunities as part of the successful team.

The steps in developing your successful Partnering Program should include, but not be limited to, the following;

  1. Develop the complete list of those companies and individuals who will be members of the partnering team.
  2. Develop an in depth game plan for each member of the team including clearly defined expectations and responsibilities.
  3. Develop a time line schedule pertaining to each responsibility and stick to it. Obviously there will be changes in the schedule, be certain to stay on top of them and alter your schedules and responsibilities accordingly.
  4. Don't be sidetracked by late comers to the project, there will always be distractions, stick to your plan and keep your eye of the established goal.
  5. Determine and establish communication guidelines for all components of the project. Be certain that all members of the team have the most current technical documents in a timely fashion.

Perhaps your project does not offer the opportunity for a "full" partnering experience, no problem; Partnering can be for an entire team or a few members of the design / construction team. It is not uncommon for very successful partnering relationships between two members of the team.

Successful Partnering requires a positive, trusting mindset. It is crucial for the members of the team to be thinking about the success of the team, not just the success of their firm. It is important for all members of each firm to "buy into" the concept. Many excellent partnering relationships have been destroyed by a single member of one of the participating companies.

Is your firm ready to be a partner? Does your firm have a long range approach to your business or are you simply concerned with the current project? Partnering is not for everybody. There are many very successful companies in all levels of our industry who do not participate in partnering; however, some feel that they could not survive without it.

If you are frustrated with constantly chasing the low bid, working on commodity projects, bidding against an endless list of marginally qualified competitors, it may be a good time for you to consider Partnering.

Remember however, you can't have it both ways, you are either committed to your partner or going it alone. It's your choice.

Finally, if partnering is appealing to you, be careful to select honest, qualified, competent partners. Hopefully, you will be gratified with the results!

William L. Shannon CSI, CISCA
President of Shannon Corporation
Recipient of the 2004 De Gelleke Award

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