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The secrets of productive long-term partnerships

This year we won a rigorous tender process which, I’m proud to say, will take our working relationship with Stoke-on-Trent City Council up to twenty years. As the fruitful business relationship has been such a privilege to enjoy, I thought I’d share my experiences of the value long-term partnerships can bring and how we overcome the inherent challenges in maintaining them.


Good communication is key. While many businesses might take this as read, fewer will spend the time needed to implement the systems and behaviours that really make for good practice.

For starters, everyone needs clear points of contact when the lines of communication are always open. I use the plural here because both sides must understand who the decision makers are and how the decision-making processes work. It’s also vital to schedule regular meetings to update both parties on progress, changes and challenges.  


Trust is earned by living up to your obligations and upholding your responsibilities. That starts with completing tasks on time and on budget, including promptly paying invoices. On top of that, most companies will be expected to live up to the corporate ideals of their clients. For Dukes, that means behaving in an ethical, sensitive manner. For others, it may have other connotations.

Forging trust in this way is not always simple, but taking the time to ensure you’re on the right track from day one will make for a better mutual understanding. And that implies less worry about getting things right in the long term.


When challenges inevitably arise, both sides need to be ready to support the other. Sometimes that means giving leeway on your expectations. Occasionally, it means coming up with fresh ideas. However, it always means taking the time to understand what both parties face.

Transparent communication is key to achieving this. It’s impossible for either party to comprehend a situation if it’s not clear what’s going on. Although transparency in the face of unforeseen problems may seem daunting, when those problems are solved both sides will be more trusting.


It’s easy to confuse innovation with change. However, while many exciting startups have earned a rightful reputation as trail-blazers capable of ‘disrupting’ a sector, most innovation starts in a stable, trusting environment. Only in such collaborations can service providers feel confident suggesting fresh solutions, and clients feel confident enough to try them.

Of course, there’s always a risk of complacency, but a genuinely successful long-term partnership requires long-term vision. That means looking beyond the day-to-day for creative, tailored and useful solutions. From the client side, regular competitive tenders and an open dialogue are vital to inspire such an attitude – and we’re glad we proved to Stoke-on-Trent City Council that we’re up to the task for another four years.

Many thanks for viewing my post; I hope you found it useful. If you have any private questions on this topic, you can connect with me on LinkedIn and send me a message, or else you'll find my contact details on my LinkedIn profile.

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