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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

6 ways to be a better partner

Partnering is a fundamental component of the competitive landscape in the government market. If this were football, it would be right there with blocking and tackling.

But just because something is so elemental and essential to success, doesn’t mean that it’s easy to do. We continue to hear stories about partnerships gone badly as well as the occasional success stories.

So, I jumped at the chance to moderate a panel of three small business leaders and one large business exec to talk about partnering in today’s market. The Northern Virginia Technology Council sponsored the event.

My panel was made up of: Satya Akula, president and CEO Amyx; Mark Johnson, founder and CEO Of PRISM Inc.; Kendall Lott, CEO and president of M Powered Strategies Inc., and Ludmilla Parnell, director of business development and small business partnerships for General Dynamics IT.

While I wasn’t in a position to take good notes, several things continue to stick out to me two days later.


When Parnell spoke about what she looks for in a small business partner she said she wants low risk partners.

So, how do you do that?

Some things require investments. Akula, for example, said his company has ISO and CMMI certifications. But other things are very simple, like showing up on time and doing your homework.

Parnell told the story of how she put together a partnering event and sent attendees a matrix ahead of time to fill out with information on customers, capabilities, etc. Several came to the event without the matrix being filled or even understanding what the event was about. Those companies got scored the lowest by the GD business leaders she had brought in.


Lott launched this discussion, and it builds off of lowering your risk. He and the other speakers emphasized how important that partners are easy to work with. This includes simple things like returning phone calls or having a central contact to manage the relationship.

It also means being able to participate and contribute to things such as business development and proposal writing.


This theme presented itself in several ways, from how to identify the prime you want to pursue to how to build a relationship once you’ve made a connection.

Several speakers spoke about approaching a potential prime the same way you approach a prospective customer. Again, it starts with doing your homework and being able to explain your value and how that can help them accomplish what they are trying to accomplish.


Before you can explain your value, you have to know what it is, and that means focus. Companies can’t be all things. You have to focus on a few critical skills and technologies and then demonstrate your expertise.


The biggest change in the world of partnering in recent years has been the emphasis on cost and how that has affected partnering. The panelist spoke about the need to show how you can bring efficiency or reduce costs on a project as an important part of demonstrating your value.


Much of a good relationship comes down to being a good communicator. There has to be good communications between the prime and the sub. This includes talking about problems and sharing intelligence about the customer.

It also includes knowing how to talk to the customer. The sub shouldn’t go around the prime when it comes to dealing with the customer. This kills the chance of a long-term relationship. The prime also needs to communicate the value of the sub to the customer and share the credit for success.

Many of the comments fit with the partnering Insider Reports we’ve done, where we grade the performance of primes and subs.

The message is clear – open communications, doing what you say you’re going to do, efficiency and transparency are the critical skills need to be both a good prime and a good sub in today’s market.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Dec 21, 2015 at 9:33 AM

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