There is an art aspect and a science aspect to nearly every business practice. The science aspect represents quantitative, objective elements that guide reliable and uniform outcomes. The art aspect represents innate or learned skills that enhance business practice results. People that are new to a business practice frequently rely on the science for experiential learning and then they hone the art of the business practice as they master it.
I am frequently asked by businesses for best practices that can build better, more productive business relationships with vendors and service providers. When asked which contract language should be used to create partnership, I delve into the context of the partnership sought. If partnership is used as a term for establishing a commercial relationship, then the best practice language for a contract will cover the terms, conditions, pricing, service level agreements, remedies, and remediations equitable to both parties. If partnership is meant as a trusted advisor term, then the best practice for achieving that state won’t be found in contract language: it can only be found in the art of building a business relationship.
I’d argue that most customers want vendors to be partners. They want to be engaged, on the same page, working towards mutual goals, and overall allies in business. Partnership takes time and an unwavering commitment to work towards common goals. Techniques for establishing partnership are embodied in the art of the business practice and the art matures with experience. The best practice for building experience is to ask how and why questions – and lots of them. Engage peers, colleagues, and vendors by asking them how they have built successful partnerships and what defined success in those partnerships. That’s how you learn and master the art of partnership.