Just last week I met with a software company with a cutting edge Cloud based web service – the type of service every engineer and designer in the world will be using some day. They first engaged with Autodesk from the top down – by striking up a conversation with our CEO that led to Autodesk investing in the company. Now this all happened four years ago when the Cloud based web services were young, fresh and mostly unproven.
Though an Autodesk software partner for four years, this company had little understanding how Autodesk could help them build their business and - except for initial funding - was making no use of their relationship with Autodesk to grow their business.
How could someone with a direct relationship with the CEO end up so disconnected and getting so little value from their relationship with Autodesk?
The root of the problem is they had a relationship with the CEO and virtually no one else at Autodesk. If you are a small company trying to leverage an elephant, having a relationship with the CEO is “nice” but - from a day to day “help me build my business” perspective - not all that useful. The CEO has plenty to do and hand holding a small start-up is not near the top of the list. To effectively leverage an elephant, you need relationships with several parts of the elephant – sales, marketing, product management, engineering, and so on..
Can you expect a CEO of an elephant to help you develop all these relationships – to do the personal introductions and organize meetings and presentations for you across what may be several divisions within the elephant? Of course not. That is why elephants that are committed to developing and growing large partner ecosystems have teams dedicated to helping partners navigate and leverage their relationship with the elephant. At Autodesk this team is called the Autodesk Developer Network. Other popular names for these teams dedicated to helping partners are Developer Relations, Developer Marketing, Partner Evangelists and so on. These folks succeed when you – their partners - succeed. They know who within the elephant’s organization is interested in what you are doing and can help you make valuable connections – whether with sales, marketing, technology, customers, etc.
The company I had visited talked to the CEO, an Executive VP and then got lost. They never engaged with the Developer Relations folks (the Autodesk Developer Network) so had no formal access to Autodesk technology, support, marketing resources, sales channels and just simple advice on how to most effectively leverage their relationship with Autodesk. They felt ignored and left out in the cold because they assumed a relationship with the CEO - along with the financial investment - insured they would get all they help they needed. It didn’t. That said, I can understand why a small company might believe the personal relationship with the CEO and financial commitment would be the “keys to the kingdom”. But don't you think this is being a bit naïve?
So When You Start Dancing with an Elephant
You need to develop a relationship with someone - or a team - within the elephant whose success is tied toyour success. A person or team that will be there to act as your guide – that will help you leverage the resources and brand of the elephant to build your business. You don’t want to depend on someone that doesn’t view helping you as important to their success.
Remind you of one of my prior blogs?
Elephants and Termites. It’s all about your really knowing what the motivations and success factors are for the people you engage with within the elephant. Is their success tightly tied to your success? Do they have other priorities that could leave you feeling neglected, ignored or forgotten? Do you have a very clear and objective understandings and expectations of what the various employees’ within the elephant can do for you – and what they can or will not? As I said in Elephants and Termites, when in doubt ask them. Ask them straight up what their priorities are – and where you sit among their priorities. Find the people within the elephant where you are their priority.