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Industry CCO

The Power of Collaboration...Bringing New Ideas to Life

By G.A. Taylor Fernley, President & CEO

One of my life lessons learned early in my business career was to surround myself with smart people. At the expense of being a bit boastful, I have been "top of my class" in the achievement of this approach... and the results speak for themselves.

A byproduct of an innovative and creative Management Team is the exploration of how to improve on an already well-oiled machine.

What has been my formula? Enter the Power of Collaboration. Many businesses today have experienced organic growth while others have done so through acquisition or aggressive new business development initiatives. Think about it for a moment... how have you grown your association, business or organization over the last few years?

For 115 years, Fernley & Fernley grew organically. Our clients typically came and stayed. At one point, the average account was with us for almost 24 years; unprecedented and rarely found in today's competitive business climate. However, about a decade ago, I came to the epiphany that for F&F to continue to grow, we needed to take a hard look at our service delivery model and evaluate what we did well and what could be done better and more efficiently and a methodology to do so. The answer came very quickly... create joint ventures and outsourcing partnerships as a fast track strategy for growth. It was a philosophical shift for us, a firm that had rarely outsourced any of our management services, keeping them strictly in-house. Well, the concept of outsourcing was launched... and we never looked back.

Growth through acquisition also remains an integral part of our strategy. In fact, in 2006, F&F purchased another association management company that specialized in an all-new market in which we had targeted; that is to say, the medical and health care arena. It proved to be a low-risk venture and a great investment and it immediately positioned us as a player in this growth market. Here was an initial collaboration with a competitor that led to an acquisition.

Was there a defining moment when F&F launched the joint venture concept? To be perfectly honest, no. My rationale was fairly simplistic; namely —

  1. A recognition and awareness that time and resources (within our firm and others) would continue to be stretched.
  2. A vision that our clients' needs were going to change and we would have to be nimble enough to change with them.
  3. An awareness that our clients' needs would grow exponentially as the composition within the membership would be more diversified, requiring a broad set of service delivery offerings and models.
  4. A realization that a need to broaden our scope of management services was going to be required by the changing customer base.
  5. F&F needed to position itself as being the total solution provider to our clients (that is to say, we would be the central point for all their needs to be met whether we provided the service in-house or outsourced it).

Lessons learned from the trenches on joint ventures:

  1. Pick your joint venture partner carefully.
  2. Educate them on your industry and clients (both internal and external).
  3. Set clear expectations.
  4. Allow them to fail... but only once.
  5. Be sure they are a cultural fit.
  6. Hold them accountable.

The Power of Collaboration through joint venture relationships should be part of any growth strategy going forward. Great opportunities exist by embracing this concept. Don't sit on the sidelines. Embrace the concept... be aggressive... and watch your organization grow.