Strategic alliances allow firms to expand services
By Jim Kendall
This column originally appeared in the January 4, 2016 Daily Herald
Lynn Walsh and Pat Price may not get as many paragraphs in business histories as Apple’s Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak or Ben & Jerry’s Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, but that’s okay: Price and Walsh are local entrepreneurs who individually own non-competing marketing businesses, Walsh Communications LLC, Oak Brook, and The Price Group Inc., Woodridge.
What’s interesting is how they keep their independence but work together in what has become a successful strategic alliance. A similar arrangement between architect Matt Jans and Andrew Venamore, whose municipal processing and permitting expertise fills an important construction industry niche, works equally well.
Walsh Communications offers traditional marketing-advertising-PR support to businesses that most often are in housing and real estate. “We’re more generalists,” Walsh says, while Price describes her Group’s services as more digitally focused – social media, websites and Google adwords management.
When one agency needs the other’s expertise for a client, a phone call is made.
“We don’t have anything formal, nothing in writing,” Price says of the strategic connection. “We’re both independent and love calling the shots for our own clients.”
Because both prefer the efficiency of having one point of contact with clients, a Price client isn’t likely to be introduced to Walsh – or vice versa. Truth is, clients generally don’t care who actually works on their projects as long as the outcome is on time, within budget, professional and effective. Results count most.
The Walsh-Price alliance seems to work in great part because there is a necessary rapport between the two principals. “We have shared values, a similar approach to clients and schedules,” Price says. “We both treat clients with trust and respect.”
Walsh, in fact, credits similar relationships with helping her business survive the near-devastating housing downturn that began with the Great Recession. “As a small business in the real estate industry, we had to make changes to our business model,” she says. “Strategic business alliances have helped us weather the (housing) changes.”
Jans (Matthias Jans Architect) and Venamore (Mach 1 Inc.) are in different but related businesses. Together the two Northbrook-based operations, which share space, shepherd residential and commercial projects through the design, and local permitting and approval processes.
“There are different procedures in each municipality,” explains Jans, adding, “It’s important to know the different personalities involved.”
For the novice, dealing with such tasks as zoning board appearances and, often, reappearances; historic preservation; surveying and other detail-focused issues can be confusing on a good day. The process is “much more burdensome than it used to be,” Jans says.
The efficiencies in the Jans-Venamore alliance are one reason, Jans says, that clients “are grateful they don’t have to deal with these headaches.”
The Walsh-Price and Jans-Venamore collaborations are built on similar business approaches. If something comparable is on your horizon, you likely should heed Price’s advice to “Make certain you really know the other person” before proceeding.