With over twenty years in the Manufacturing Reliability Consulting business, I have been approached at least a dozen times to align or partner with other companies who sell services and or equipment that don’t compete with the services I provide. While our community consists of thousands of individual companies around the globe, if you’ve worked in our world for more than five years and attended two to three of the major conferences each year, you’ll notice many of the same faces but often wearing a different shirt.
When I started in this business, I simply wanted to sell my product and my services to the manufacturing industry. I have a strong belief that what I offer is something that every company should invest in and through more than twenty years, I have countless case studies clearly prove it.
As a result, each year I’m approached by 1 or 2 companies who would either like to; purchased my company, set up some type of agreement to advertise each other’s services or set up a formal agreement to share customers.
In 22 years I have signed 1 formal partnership and have made 3 verbal commitments.
All 4 worked as expected. I was lucky to have a very good lawyer when I started my business. He never charged me for calling and asking questions and he offered excellent advice when it came to making business partnerships or agreements.
“Don’t do it unless your broke, getting out of the business or you have carefully reviewed what I call the 5 do’s & don’ts of smart business alignment.
1. Look for integrity first – Have they made similar agreements with other companies? If so, how did they work out. Call the person who owned that company and ask those questions. Make sure the sale or agreement is at least 3 years old. If they have held up their end of the bargain for more than 5 years chances are good they will do the same for you.
Don’t make the agreement if you find even 1 company that within 3 years the relationship had gone sour. You’ll find in business that those with integrity make good on their promises and those who lack it are looking to buy you just to add to their score board.
2. Check the revolving door – If they’re simply looking to align with you, check the revolving door. Companies you align with should have a solid reputation as a good place to work. You will need to vet them through common customers and the question I find the most telling is how do they treat their employees? Good companies treat their employees well and as a result they stick around.
Don’t align yourself with any company that appears to have a revolving door where good people may have gone for more money but left inside of two years. You’ll figure out who they are once you have 5 to 10 years in the business. Wow! Look who went to work for ACME! Two years later that same person is now working someplace else. It’s either the person or the company. When you see that same scenario 5 times, it’s the company. Stay Away!
3. Someone Wants Money – They aren’t looing to buy your business, but they want to make an agreement to share customers or promote each other. These agreements always look great starting out but often end with one company or the other doing more promoting and sharing and in the end, we begin to wonder why we made this agreement to begin with. If you’re going to do this promise each other that you won’t keep score. “I want to do this because I believe in your product and how you run your business. I trust that you feel the same way about my company, and you will do the same.”
Don’t ever enter one of these agreements where you have to pay each other for resulting work. Anyone who wants money to promote your business doesn’t believe in you or your products. They are simply looking for a way to make more money. The minute that person can find another sucker who is willing to pay a dollar more than you, they’ll be recommending your competitors services and products.
4. Honesty – When it comes to business, nothing is more important than aligning yourself with people who are honest. In your first 5 years of doing business your goal should be to flood potential customers with information about who you are, what you do, why it works and case studies that prove it works. You’ll need to protect your intellectual property like it was your child because those who see it as an advantage will look to steal it in any way they can.
Don’t ever sign a copyright or trademark agreement with someone who claims they are simply reproducing your material to help market or advertise your products. If they truly cared about you, your business or your product, they would do so and clearly give you credit as the rightful owner.
5. Customer Focus – Now one would think that anyone who offers training, consulting and products that are intended to improve productivity and reliability at a manufacturing plant would be customer focused. In truth, I think they all start out that way and somewhere along the line become on just making more money. In the end when the focus is on money, the customer loses out. John, my attorney had some simple advice in regard to this.
Don’t align yourself with or make any agreement with any company where the owner is no longer involved in the day to day business. Who owns ACME Reliability? Is it John Doe or some capital investment firm from Washington DC? John Doe cared about his customers and worked to make sure they were satisfied. Capital investors only care about profits.
In closing I hope the advice of my friend John will help some of the new faces who are breaking into the industry. After 22 years I have made the decision to cut back significantly and enjoy more time with our children and grandchildren. I would also like to thank some of the legends of our industry who through the years encouraged me with kind words and recommendations; Ron Moore, Mac Smith and Jack Nickolas Jr. I’ll never forget the pride I felt the first time I heard Jack mention my name and RCM Blitz™ at a presentation he was giving at a SMRP conference in 2000 and Ron Moore’s kind words about my book when it was released several years back. While our community of providers will continue on. I’m thankful to have had Ron, Mac and Jack as mentors. Honesty, Integrity and Customer Focus. Peace!
Douglas Plucknette is the President of Reliability Solutions Inc. The creator of RCM Blitz and the Author of Reliability Centered Maintenance – Using the RCM Blitz Method and Clean, Green, and Reliable with Chris Colson.