When it comes to creating and nurturing partnerships of any kind, the basic rules of human relations should always be applied. One always needs to earn and build trust, and learn when – and when not – to compromise.
In the fast moving world of fintech and indeed business at large, we too often forget these principles – to the detriment of our teams and organisations.
There is a widespread shift towards specialisation, with businesses honing in on certain aspects and needs within their sector, and this is undoubtedly making strong partnerships even more critical for long-term survival.
As a fintech entrepreneur and business leader, these are the guiding principles that I have used…
You need to define and embrace who you are as a company. This necessitates having a tightly defined product/service and a strong strategic position.
With this clarity, you will have a clear vision of what you want to do and offer in the market, and also what you don’t want to do.
This insight will guide the way forward when it comes to deciding when to acquire or invest in developing a new capability internally, and when to partner with a company that can provide the capability externally.
In our early days, we tried to set up our own electronic wallet in an attempt to provide a full, end-to-end solution. However, as the company matured, we saw new players coming in that could potentially offer a better solution collaboratively. For example, we decided to work with mobile distributors instead of investing in improving our own field operations capability.
There will always be a moment when you have to decide whether to compete, or whether to yield certain parts of the market to other players. If you know your company and have a vision, you can answer this question with confidence.
Tell Your Story
Every sector and marketplace is highly competitive, and there is a natural tendency among both new and established companies to censor our stories. When we do speak about the business and its journey, business leaders tend to gloss over the details and dress it with positive spin.
Sadly, this can result in missed opportunities when it comes to developing partnerships. When the story of a business is told honestly, then the business itself and potential partners can get to work on finding mutually beneficial solutions to the problems as well as bolstering their respective existing strengths.
The best partnerships are those that allow both parties to play clearly defined roles, and the need for those roles can only be recognised through truth telling.
With this candid approach, our problems can become each other’s solutions.
Guard Against Insecurity
Within fintech, the average age of most companies is under five years. Naturally, being so young and operating in a disruptive and highly scrutinised space (finance), most of us are plagued with insecurity.
This insecurity keeps us guarded, as noted above, and it also leads to a dangerous tendency to overlook key opportunities to partner with other players.
In Africa, most of the markets that we operate in are small in the context of the global economy, and there is a tendency towards territorialism.
Yet there is more than enough work and opportunity to go around, and by guarding against insecurity, we can harness these opportunities by partnering with the right companies and people – at the right times.