As technology quickly advances, there's sure to be at least one critical new platform that you'll be introducing to your organization. You will move into that new technology with either a technology vendor, or a partner.

The selection of a technology company can be an arduous and daunting process. There's no doubt you'll research references, look at work samples, and meet several times before you commit to a contract. So, you can assume with some confidence that this company is professional, has integrity and has been successful in your industry.

But make no mistake that once selected, that relationship will be based on trust. Because only time will tell whether you selected a true partner, or just another vendor.

Lets explore some ways you can better qualify companies and discern between those who will step up to the plate and become true partners and those who will fall by the way side as just another vendor.

1. Experience is just the beginning

A well-selected partner can rely on their previous experience to guide your franchise system in making informed decisions that will strengthen your organization. But that's just the beginning. A partner will do more than just impart best practices in your industry. A partner will care about making you and your entire organization successful. A well-chosen partner will ask probing questions about how they can help take you to the next level, not just complete the project at hand.

A partner will ask lots of questions, looking for ways to push the envelope for you. They will always look beyond the short term, focusing instead on the long term success of your entire organization.

In time a partner will gain the respect and earn the trust of those around them, as they work towards a relationship of loyalty.

2. Partnership is a two way street

A relationship based on trust and respect is a two way street. When a partner makes a valuable contribution to your organization, they expect to be recognized and rewarded for it. This type of 'ask' should be expected, as a partner who understands that their 'going above and beyond' is a valuable contribution to your organization should not be shy about wanting to be recognized for their efforts.

Here are some simple questions you should expect from a company that is seeking to be your partner:

1) Do you have a vendor of the year award at your national convention?

2) When we win your loyalty, will you be a reference for us?

A partner expects to win such recognition and making you a loyal customer who's willing to 'shout from the rooftops' about their exemplary service.

3. Communication is the key
One way to discern between a partner and a vendor is by who the company asks to talk to in your organization, ie. who do they want involved in planning meetings, business reviews, etc.?

A vendor wants to meet with the decision maker. A partner wants to meet with everyone, from the franchisees to the managers, directors and 'C' suite. A partner understands that the success of their one project depends on the entire organization and affects the whole.

With this approach to communicating with your organization a partner can gain a clearer understanding not only of what your organization does and needs, but why. And to make the most impact to any organization you must understand the DNA of that company, and why they do what they do. A partner understands this and seeks to understand your DNA at every turn.

Lets face it, in many ways the success of some of your most important initiatives in 2015 may rely on building a relationship with a new partner, or going back to the drawing board with an existing one. The partners you choose will undoubtedly reflect back on you and your integrity, reliability and ultimately your value to your executive team, franchisees and customers.

Building a partnership will require some additional effort by you and your staff, but the potential benefits of the relationship far outweigh the extra time. When you have a great relationship with a partner, they become an extension of your company's team, and this can result in new opportunities, savings, and benefits for your entire organization and franchisees.

In the end, a partner's influence is far reaching, because it's trusted. It's not an opinion; it is advice and insight. It's in this spirit of shared success that you will find the characteristics of a company that shares your values, and will become an invaluable partner.

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