President, PayPal Canada.
There is no better approach to solving challenges than the famous saying "two heads are better than one." Whether creating internal partnerships between colleagues or departments, to larger partnerships between businesses, harnessing the strengths and abilities of others from different corners of your ecosystem is one of the most strategic ways for businesses to scale their innovation and solve complex challenges. In today's fast-paced environment, a "do-it-alone" approach is not the best strategy for growth. Companies that initially grew organically need to look for new ways to drive collaborative innovation that delivers on what their customers need today – and in the future.
Collaboration and strategic partnerships are fundamental to improving business outcomes. I've worked in the payments industry for more than 20 years – first at American Express and now at PayPal Canada – and have struck more than 50 major partnerships and strategic alliances that brought innovation and improved offerings to customers.
Strategic partnerships benefit everyone: businesses, employees and customers. Businesses can broaden their relevance and increase their addressable market; customers benefit from the strengths and offerings each organization brings to the table; and employees can expand their development opportunities by being exposed to new perspectives and expertise. Plus, deepening ties between complementary businesses fosters collaboration and longevity, and allows companies to offer services and solutions that help their customers and other businesses become more successful.
The fintech ecosystem has seen this happen over the past few years. Traditional organizations such as big banks and government agencies are partnering with newer players, startups and entrepreneurs. At PayPal, we've embraced a partnership approach wholeheartedly – from the top of the organization to the bottom. Since we separated from eBay as an independently listed company in 2015, we have been focused on forging partnerships with leaders across the financial and technology industries to expand our services, increase conversion for our merchants, create better experiences and give our consumers the flexibility, security and speed that digital payments offer.
Some organizations may be resistant to partnering with a company that competes with them for customers or profits, and some employees may not feel the need to collaborate internally in new or unexpected ways. The reality of today's business landscape, however, means that partnerships are key to better serving customers by merging talent, expertise, technology and purpose. While the rewards are great, strategic partnerships require thoughtful consideration to ensure success is achieved.
Identify the gap and opportunity
I've seen the greatest success when opportunity drives collaboration. Partners – whether internal or external – need to first identify the specific challenge they can solve. Look at your customers and consider what their pain points are, what worries them or what would help accelerate their growth. For employees, think outside the box to find unexpected expertise. Could your finance team bring unexpected insight to a financial product you are developing? For business to business relations, do you share customers with other businesses? What issues do your shared customers face? Can you work together to achieve common success? Sometimes the best ideas come from combined solutions from different perspectives.
Work toward a common goal
Any partnership, big or small, will work best when there is a shared goal. Establishing a common purpose sets the foundation and acts as the glue to holding the partnership together. Earlier this year, PayPal Canada developed a strategic collaboration with Canada Post. We saw that our existing customers lacked a seamless payment and shipping solution and were wasting precious hours that could have been spent growing their business. In Canada Post, we found the best partner to launch a convenient, easy-to-use shipping and payment solution for small businesses that saves time and money. The partnership was built on that fact that we both shared a common goal of helping small businesses grow their operations and harness e-commerce as part of their business strategy. Throughout the partnership, we kept this shared goal as our North Star, and our employees were motivated and excited to create an experience that would positively affect our customers.
Lean into each other's strengths
Strategic partnerships enable teams to bring the best of their talent and strengths forward. Every person and every business has unique strengths, so honing your partnership strategy to play to those strengths will let you shine. It's rewarding to see how doing so generates functional and creative solutions. We regularly partner with teams internally across geographies to learn from their expertise and apply key learnings to our own market.
When the Toronto Parking Authority launched the Green P Parking app to enable Torontonians to pay for parking from their mobile phone, we teamed up with them to add PayPal as a payment option and promote it across our customer base. The Toronto Parking Authority team excelled in understanding everything to do with parking and we brought expertise in providing a seamless mobile payment experience and marketing skills to drive increased usage.
Communication is key
For a partnership to succeed, an emphasis on clear communication between partners is essential. Leverage internal communication and collaboration channels when working on partnerships within your organization. For external partnerships, in-person meetings can go a long way in developing a solid working rapport. Open and effective channels of communication between members of the partnership or alliance will ensure there are no misaligned expectations between parties.
Big breakthroughs and progress can't happen in silos. Working collaboratively with partners – within an organization as well as within your ecosystem to solve business problems – generates the kind of energy that fuels growth, innovation and creativity. Developing value-aligned partnerships that focus on common goals and complementary strengths is key to ensuring successful outcomes for all.
Executives, educators and human resources experts contribute to the ongoing Leadership Lab series.