Thea Stein will have a perilous path to tread as she heads up the newly slimmed-down Yorkshire Forward if she is to ensure that it helps to forge a dynamic future for the region’s hard-pressed business community.
The real partnership and meaningful communication between the organisation and the businesses it exists to support will need to be stronger and more willing than ever as it embarks on unchartered waters with its budgets slashed by up to £44m. Stein is an academic and health professional by background, but the fact that she will be complemented by a chairman who’s background is firmly in the commercial world – a toss up between banker Chris Pilling and manufacturer Barry Dodd at the time of writing – bodes well for an organisation that absolutely must expound successful partnership.
These are unprecedented and extraordinary times.
When the Liberal Democrats find themselves flung into the arms of the Conservative Party in a coalition which the country as a whole is relying on to provide the leadership to steer us out of the nightmares of recession and back to prosperity, the concept of powerful partnerships has never been higher up the agenda.
For business, the whole question of partnership is especially pertinent in the face of persistent gloom from forecasters.
In June, insolvency group Begbies Traynor warned companies to batten down the hatches with the morbid prediction that we are set to endure the miseries of a double dip recession. A second wave of ailing businesses needs to founder, says Begbies’ executive chairman Ric Traynor before the recovery can properly take root. Struggling companies that have survived the recession but are being propped up by government support and record low interest rates must therefore be sacrificed, so Traynor’s theory goes, in a purge that will be the catalyst for new growth and recovery.
As a business owner, these observations and dire warnings are especially significant.
Perhaps we can more successfully weather the stormy economic conditions if we look to the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, which is drawing strength from co-operation between what many have previously considered the unlikeliest of bedfellows.
The late business management guru Peter Drucker said “alliances are where the real growth is” – a truism as valid today as it was in the last century. The phrase might well be music to the ears of David Cameron and Nick Clegg, but for the coalition to prosper beyond the honeymoon period it is currently enjoying, it will need to rely on its most positive qualities, many of which are also being used to propel some of the most successful business partnerships.
To his credit, David Cameron has pledged that the way forward for national Government must be marked by transparency and accountability, attributes which become more of a reality when partners with differing agendas are involved.
If the coalition can live up to its promises, it will be strengthened by the robust relationships that partnership will force upon it and that are also a bedrock of the most successful business alliances.
When companies work in synergy together – whether in a formal partnership or in strategic alliances – one of the most powerful factors is thateach side must share a clarity of purpose. Once this is established, all sorts of creative and innovative magic becomes liberated and the new entity gathers and drives its own autonomous momentum.
The successful partnerships are those that harness the power of their robust alliances to bolster themselves against uncertainty and fragility.
When partners bring skills to the table that complement one another they become stronger, more flexible and often more responsive to their customers’ needs, all of which leads to a more resilient and ultimately more successful organisation.
One of the biggest hurdles to overcome when people and organisations are in the process of joining together to form a partnership is a lack of trust. For the Tory-Lib Dem coalition that undoubtedly involved a gigantic leap of faith after endless rounds of secretive exchanges and discussions. Whether there can ever be total trust between politicians of different hues is debatable, but in a business partnership, trust is usually built up over a period of time, during which both, or all, sides can weigh up the other.
But with trust, a common purpose and complementary skill-sets on board you create something new and exciting that can help you step bravely into the future - and keep looking forward in your dynamic working partnership.
Modern alliances, whether in government, between the public and private sector – as in Yorkshire Forward’s case – or in business, are increasingly the golden means of building, not simply a bigger organisation, but a more progressive, stronger and adaptable one.
When David Cameron officially announced the coalition he described it as “a new progressive partnership”. I applaud his optimism and urge the public and private sector to follow suit and forge sustainable, transparent and accountable partnerships that will enhance the region’s economy and achieve ambitions that may otherwise be unattainable.Toby Luper is owner of Hemingway tailors, based in Leeds. He is also a partner, with Alex Vince, in lifestyle management company, The Hemingway Club