Growing your consulting business: Choosing a teaming partner

Public and private sectors increasingly rely on emerging technologies to deliver a better experience to their customers or constituents. Every other tender or request for proposal is loaded with the ask for newer and varied technology. It provides an excellent opportunity for technology consultants and suppliers to expand, but it does not always make sense for vendors to stack up services endlessly.

Teaming with partners that offer complementing services is a cost-efficient and effective way...

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Public and private sectors increasingly rely on emerging technologies to deliver a better experience to their customers or constituents. Every other tender or request for proposal is loaded with the ask for newer and varied technology. It provides an excellent opportunity for technology consultants and suppliers to expand, but it does not always make sense for vendors to stack up services endlessly.

Teaming with partners that offer complementing services is a cost-efficient and effective way for suppliers and technology consultants to jointly win tenders that they may individually not be qualified to address in its entirety. It helps build a portfolio of work with a broader range and depth and is one of the most effective and vastly popular growth strategies in the post-pandemic remote work environment.

A typical teaming relationship is formed between two or more distinct service providers, bringing specific subject-matter-expertise and resource pool to the table for a bid or proposal. It is usually created at the early stages of a proposal submission process and is limited to the project or proposal in question.

Small consulting businesses and teaming partnerships: a great way to grow

For small and minority-owned businesses, teaming partnerships can be a big advantage. It opens out newer and bigger markets unlocking more opportunities. The expertise of the teaming partners completes and complements one’s offering and saves the cost and time of building in-house expertise. Often for a start-up, such partnerships can also help build credibility and reputation. And all of this can pave way for bigger revenues.

Choose partners with care

It is a partnership based on shared benefit and responsibility. As expectations mire such relationships, it is essential to handle them with care. If unchecked, a poorly managed partnership can lead to loss and damages. Here are some factors to consider.

  1. Most tenders specify eligibility criteria and regulations. Teaming with a partner that can fulfill specific criteria can get you access to opportunities otherwise unavailable to you. For example, teaming with a certified women-owned business can make you eligible to bid for federal government quota restricted for women in business.
  2. Assess the performance record of the prospective partner and evaluate as a vendor and as a teaming partner. In government contracts especially, teaming partner experience is crucial.
  3. Is the partner’s expertise truly complementing? Does it help you fulfill the ask of the tender?
  4. Assess the partner’s approach to the particular opportunity and your partnership.

Draw up a definite teaming agreement.

  1. Despite the costs involved, creating a teaming agreement is crucial. While subcontract agreements are familiar and more straightforward to put together, they are limiting and often ineffective.
  2. The teaming agreement includes two parts. One between the project owner (government/business) and prime contractor. Second between the prime contractor and subcontractor.
  3. Negotiating and deciding the terms of a teaming agreement in advance can help prevent probable bottlenecks and conflicts. While trust and optimism are virtues, it is best to be prudent and thorough in professional relationships.
  4. Spell out the terms clearly. Pricing, timelines, the scope of work, role partition and exit clauses need to be articulated.
  5. Data and confidentiality protection are of high importance. Working with a partner may mean sharing proprietary information. A non-disclosure clause must be included. Inclusion of exclusivity and intellectual property clauses are also highly recommended.
  6. Ensuring that the clauses included are enforceable is essential. In hindsight, many parts of an agreement are found to be not enforceable in a court.
  7. When the tender is successful, a more specific contractor/subcontractor can be drafted to ensure the smooth functioning of the project.

Teaming partnerships come with great advantages but have their risks too. So it is good to be aware of the possible financial and reputational repercussions. This will help keep the contractors honest and committed to the agreement.

Lakshmi Radhakrishnan is chief executive officer at Idril Services Corporation.

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