What’s the difference between a Partner and a Service Provider?

Every single company that provides business to business services attempts to make themselves into more of a Partner than a Service Provider. They want to be seen as adding value beyond their competition so that they can sell their service at a higher price and not be negotiated down to the lowest acceptable margin. But what is the difference between a Partner and Service Provider in practice?

If you want to have any of the advantages that being a Service Provider comes with you can’t really be a Partner. Or if your customer doesn’t really want to go through the effort of allowing themselves to really give you a seat at the table, you can’t really be a Partner.

Are you willing to accept the risks that come with not performing? I’m not talking slap-on-the-wrist risk acceptance. I’m talking not get paid risk acceptance.

Are you willing to go against your best interests for the sake of the client? I’m not talking about simply forgoing a service, but telling a client they don’t need you for the work. A real partner knows when their interests go against the client and own up to it.

Are you willing to stand on principle when the client is ready to make the wrong move that will benefit you but hurt themselves in the long-term? Service Providers will say that it’s the wrong move once or twice (maybe even three times) before giving into the client’s wishes. A Partner will stand their ground and continue convincing the client of the right move.

So which is it….are you a Service Provider or a Partner?


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