There are regular PCB vendor relationships, and then there are the partnerships where you invest in future projects, such as developing processes for a new technology where you will have to share the work, responsibility, and success of the project. In short, project partnerships require a much deeper and more trusting relationship with your vendor. Not all of your PCB vendor relationships are going to be strong enough to be a good partner for the future. Remember that a partner is someone that you work with to do things bigger than either of you could do alone, the “one plus one equals three” theory. Here are 13 tips for creating a productive partnership with your PCB vendor when it comes to developing technology.
- Choose the right partner. Obviously, the more you work with your PCB vendor, the better you will know and trust them. You have come to rely on your partner.
- Have a shared vision and mission. To develop a great relationship, you are going to have to develop a vision and mission because you will be doing more than just one project. Decide what you can expect to accomplish together on these special projects.
- Describe your expectations. You and your vendor should lay your proverbial cards on the table. What do you expect from each other and from the partnership?
- Create a manifesto. You might think this is going a bit overboard, but maybe it’s not. In some cases, it is good to write a partnership manifesto; the very act of writing it is valuable.
- Set combined goals. Like any other project, goals have to be set. Make sure you work on the goals together so that you are both headed in the same direction.
- Communication is key. You always need to talk to each other, especially when you are working on projects and building things that no one has ever done before.
- Understand one another’s strengths. Make sure that you understand what each of you can do well, and what is challenging for each of you. It’s good if you have different skill sets that complement one another. You have to be each other’s experts.
- Support one another. Your partnership will only be as strong as the trust you have for one another. If there is no trust, there is not a true partnership. Why would you want to be partners with someone you don’t trust enough to support? Hurting either party hurts the partnership.
- Be flexible. You are not always going to agree completely, so you have to make allowances for each other’s shortcomings. There will also be times when you don’t completely agree; if you value the partnership, you will both try to be flexible.
- Be open when surprises occur. This is a critical but often overlooked aspect of a partnership. You have to use “The Godfather” rule, who wants to hear bad news immediately. Keep that in mind when something bad happens; hiding it from your partner will only allow it to fester and create a feeling of distrust.
- Know how to settle disputes. Agree in advance how you will settle disputes between you. Have a plan for how you will handle future disagreements, and then follow it when you have a dispute; it will come in very handy when the time comes and save a lot of time and agony.
- Admit when you mess up. A partnership is not a zero-sum contest; you have to be able to trust one another enough to admit when one of you messes up. You have to be comfortable that if you mess up, your partner won’t rip your head off your shoulders. If you aren’t comfortable with that, you have chosen the wrong partner.
- Pick up the phone. If you start getting into an email discussion that is getting either too long-worded, emotional, or both, then stop and pick up the phone; call your partner and talk it through. Email exchanges can become nasty very quickly, and even good partners tend to say things that they don’t mean. Be cautious of the emails because they can be bombs that detonate into a full-out war in the blink of an eye.
Once you establish a partnership based on these 13 guidelines, you will be able to start doing great things together. You will be amazed by what two willing, trusting, and able companies can do when they develop a great partnership. Always remember how you can make great technological advances when you don’t care who gets the credit.