Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What King Solomon had to say about the "Partner" page on your web site


Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense,
but a man of understanding remains silent.

Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets,
but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.

Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer harm,
but he who hates striking hands in pledge is secure.


In my current industry of telecommunications, many firms loosely attach themselves to one another through "partnerships". In a typical partnership, some managers from the two companies get along well, and see one another as providing complementary products. For example, one company makes equipment, while another company is good at installing the equipment and making it go.

Too often, these relationships don't carry much weight. There aren't many barriers to creating new loose partnerships, and they're typically not binding. Years ago, I learned that my employer was an official Cisco Systems partner -- but Cisco wouldn't put anybody on the phone to answer questions about my product. Sometimes I wonder if the only meaningful inter-company partnership is when one company is a customer to the other: ("You do work and send invoices, I send you money. That makes us partners.")

The text above, from the 11th chapter of the ancient Jewish book of Proverbs, gives some interesting clues about these arrangements between companies. With texts going back to around 1000 BC, Proverbs was one of the earliest "wisdom books" ever written. It has been meticulously maintained by Jews, who moved it (and the rest of the their sacred texts) from format to format to keep it alive. Other cultures in the same area also had wisdom literature in the same timeframe; for example, Egyptians also had wisdom texts in similar format. Proverbs is a part of current-day Jewish and Christian sacred texts. (Proverbs 11:12, 13 and 15)

Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent. By living near your neighbor, you know some secrets about them; perhaps even things that would be harmful. It's stupid to reveal those secrets openly. In close working relationships, employees from both companies work in close contact with one another. Each company learns some of the weaknesses of the other. Advertising these facts gained by the close working relationship isn't smart.

Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered. Are you considering a close working relationship with a company that gives you all the dirt on everybody else? Try to do business with folks who are "trustworthy in spirit". One teacher I've had said that he's glad to sign paperwork, but if he has to make someone sign paperwork to get people to keep their word, then he'd rather find someone else to do business with.

Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer harm, but he who hates striking hands in pledge is secure. "Puts up security" is similar to co-signing a loan; the security is collateral. The loose business partnerships rarely involve actual bank loans, but business relationships often involve lending goodwill. "Striking hands in pledge" is like a handshake.

For example, if you're an expert in Linear Defrobnicator installation and maintenance, and you strike up a business partnership with a Linear Defrobnicator manufacturer and begin to recommend their Defrobnicators, then you're really using your goodwill earned through previous good recommendations and service. Your customers listen to you because you know how to make Linear Defrobnicators go.

This proverb is teaching that it's smart to avoid such interaction -- with strangers, especially. Unschooled business managers in highly-technical fields often don't understand just how bad or how immature other technical products might be. It takes real skill and background and time to really know whether a company's technical products are worth recommending.

1 comment:

bentoncreation said...

Good thoughts, Mark!