If ever you have heard someone say, “So-and-so? They are easy to do business with!”, you know that the meaning extends beyond the world of business. Those with whom we develop positive professional relationships typically demonstrate such traits as a willingness to be flexible and compromise, strong communication, and a straightforward manner.
In short, they are trustworthy.
One can think about this critical element in terms of a continuum:
No trust, no relationship — no relationship, no collaboration — no collaboration, no partnership
For successful relationship development, a core group of considerations and concepts need to be understood and applied:
- There are significant differences between education and business cultures; address these differences.
- Any partnership must be mutually beneficial. No one party’s goals are more important; no one party is the sole expert.
- Ongoing communication is critical to establishing trust and maintaining the relationship.
- Relationships must begin at an individual level and grow to span the organization(s); develop several key contact points on each side of the partnership.
- Integrity is foundational. Do what you said you were going to do, and, if you can’t, explain why.
- Partnership goals need to be articulated. Then, demonstrate evidence of results.
- Agreement that the partnership lacks purpose if not centrally focused on student success
In many ways, these core concepts are fairly commonsensical. Imagine the differences between building a friendship and, say, buying a car. The latter is more of a short-term transactional engagement, while the former is a long-term relationship. Meaningful and productive partnerships are long term and strategic in nature.
Demographic, social & environmental considerations
Most education-business partnerships exist with larger, well-established business entities. These “logo companies” maintain structured philanthropic and community relations departments. But there are many, many other smaller, cross-industry businesses (20 – 500 employees) that offer strong potential for partnership. Imagine the opportunities for sustainable and customizable education partnerships, but they aren’t being adequately pursued.
Effective partnership development amid COVID-19
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic strongly affected how the CTE community creates and delivers critical work-based learning, internship and related education programs and curricula. Collaboration among educators and stakeholders revealed what must be addressed in order to sustain continued business–education partnership development:
- Innovation – Blended/distance learning demands technological innovation.
- Relevance – Programs must address critical issues.
- Efficiency – Projects need to be as non-intrusive as possible.
- Sustainability – Stakeholders must demonstrate awareness of the trust continuum in order to ensure the partnership remains mutually beneficial.
So, how do these findings translate into a process for identifying, qualifying, engaging, managing, sustaining and growing valuable business–education relationships?
JGT Initiatives — along with representatives from the University of Texas Permian Basin and the Transformative Leadership Academy — are collaborating on a pilot program and research study to further assess how these partnership success factors are applied in a real-world setting. Included in our framework are methodologies, concepts and findings from a series of individual and collective research studies and best practice efforts:
- My 35 years of management, training, communications, research and consulting experience in developing hundreds of client relationships and professional partnerships across a wide variety of domestic and international industry settings
- The work of Kevin Badgett, associate professor and department chair of educational leadership at the University of Texas, including his study School-Business Partnerships: Understanding Business Perspectives.
- Projects and ventures led by Lindsey Balderaz, assistant professor at the University of Texas Assistant and founder/director of the Transformative Leadership Academy. The TLA is an independent school that utilizes a flexible, multi-age classroom structure, integrated with a project-based learning and design thinking model.
- Qualitative and quantitative pilot program research management and analysis from Lauren Neal, assistant professor at the University of Texas, including her analysis of related CTE focus group responses and commentary.
In closing, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out an intriguing facet of our project — our own unique collaboration of business, education and academic professionals. Early on, we realized our team was experiencing the impact of the same cultural differences we set out to study. We ran into the very same issues our research and experiences showed could exist in education–business partnership development efforts. In a living lab of sorts, we are developing our own education–business relationship.
To learn more, attend ACTE’s CareerTech Virtual VISION, Nov. 30–Dec. 4. John Turcic will present his session — An Education–Business Relationship: The Story of a Partnership Journey — on Friday, Dec. 4.
John Turcic has developed hundreds of client relationships and professional partnerships, across a wide variety of domestic and international business and organizational settings. After leaving the for-profit/business world, Turcic formed JGT Initiatives to explore where his background, experience and credentials could contribute to organizations in the nonprofit sector. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, he resides with his family north of Pittsburgh in Southwestern Pennsylvania.