Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Are you working with Vendors or Strategic Partners? Do you know the difference?

“We’re going to see employment-based learning as a new model going forward,” said Harper President Kenneth Ender. “It’s a powerful tool for getting people on the path to good, middle-skills jobs, but it’s going to require a closer partnership between community colleges and local companies.”

When we hear this message, how do we make this work?  What’s important in looking for vendors or partners?  Which holds the most promise and value to your college?  How do you choose a strategic partner in education?

First let’s look at the standard definition that separates a vendor from a partner….  A vendor is someone who basically provides goods and services at any point of the supply-chain.  Vendors are not involved in strategy but can contribute to your tactical plan.  A partnership is when each business or organization possesses one or more business assets that will help one another, but that each respective other does not wish to develop internally.  A partnership can get very involved in helping you set your strategy and tactical plans. 

You need both but you need to distinguish between the two…  Which holds the most promise and value to your college?  Usually, vendors supply you products and services throughout your supply chain then move on to their next client.  Strategic partners are vested in your particular success and well being.  They are part your engine that makes your car run.

In education, are you partnering with companies that have your best interests in mind and are motivated in succeeding only when you succeed? Are they in it for you? Some examples I noticed:

·       Colleges who buy and advertise courses through various publishing companies.  They can make up a large portion of the college’s course portfolio and the college spend  dollars advertising and selling these courses to our community.  However, in many instances many of these publishing companies also provide the training & development - selling the same courses with better discounting in our community and the businesses these colleges serve. 

·       The latest trends are organizations that provide educational online programs and contract with community colleges to resell them.  They provide them a revenue share percentage and a set price point for each individual course.  However, they also have territory representatives and direct marketing campaigns - selling the same courses with bundled discounts and added technology directly to the community and the businesses these colleges service. 

·       Then we have companies that that have a reputation of selling their products and services to everyone (colleges).  How do you distinguish if these companies are right for your college?  What differenciates them and how will they add value to the college? Just because most of the colleges use a particular company’s products and services, doesn’t mean everyone has too. Research and analyze what your niche is within your market and partner with someone that is stronger in that area.  Knowing you strengths and manage your weaknesses through strategic partners!

Are these vendors or strategic partners and what kind of message does it send to the customer?
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