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Partnership can take lots of different forms, depending on the business sizes, types, and goals of each participant. When a partnership can help companies reach new customers or deepen relationships with existing customers by offering new solutions, partners have found the right recipe for success.

The partnership of Chicago, Illinois-based Directions Training and Kirkland, Washington-headquartered QuickLearn Training is an unlikely one. Thanks to their membership in the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) and the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners (IAMCP), they are working together to maximize their business opportunities and bring value to their mutual customers.

While it might seem odd that two training companies are teaming up, it’s a partnership that truly works. Because both companies belong to the same communities, there was a level of trust already established between them. This trust allowed both organizations to be open to new possibilities. Add in some out-of-the-box thinking and the two companies could achieve greater profitability for both.

Competition + cooperation = successful partnership

QuickLearn Training is a small training company which offers very deep, specialized training in BizTalk Server, Team Foundation Server, and Logic Apps on Azure. Because of their size, QuickLearn Training doesn’t have a sales or marketing department. About 50 percent of their business comes from repeats or word-of-mouth, says General Manager Lorraine Vance. The other 50 percent rely on partnerships with Microsoft Learning partners to resell into their classes

When Lorraine came on board with QuickLearn Training, she was new to the tech industry and still trying to make sense of all those acronyms (SI? ISV?). The IAMCP seemed like a great way to get educated about the Microsoft Partner Network and Microsoft products while growing her organization’s network. At first, she spent a lot of time sitting quietly in the back of chapter meetings, until finally frustration over an issue convinced her to speak up. “I asked if anyone knew anything about this one problem we’d been having, and the room just erupted,” she says. “Everyone had suggestions and tips for me!” From then on, she knew she was in a community she could depend on and trust.

Directions Training’s story is a little different. President Jennifer Didier has been a member of the Chicago IAMCP chapter for 15 years “at least,” she says, as both partner and Chapter President. In contrast to QuickLearn Training, Jennifer’s training organization offers the broad spectrum of classes based on the Microsoft official curriculum, but they don’t have the sort of niche training QuickLearn offers. When an employee from Directions Training learned about QuickLearn Training’s courses at an IAMCP meeting, she recognized the potential value of a partnership and approached Lorraine with an idea.

How QuickLearn Training benefits

“We have 25 partners across the United States,” says Lorraine, “and 5 global partners. But we didn’t have a presence in Illinois.” Partnership with Directions Training gave them reach and access into the large, profitable Chicago and downstate Illinois markets.

How Directions Training benefits

Directions Training offers a full schedule of classes but not the highly specialized training QuickLearn Training provides. “By partnering with QuickLearn, we can also put those deep-dive classes on our schedule and make them available to our customers and students who need them,” Jennifer says.

How customers benefit

Customers benefit when they have the widest range of class offerings wherever they are. Because many customers for the QuickLearn classes are already familiar with Directions Training, they get the peace of mind of knowing the courses come highly recommended by a vendor they trust.

More partnership tips

Beyond their own specific story, Jennifer and Lorraine also shared some general tips for successful partnering that other MPN members can start to use right away:

Coopetition: One big factor is, as Jennifer calls it, “coopetition”: competition plus cooperation, with an emphasis on the latter. Though both are training companies, their offerings are truly complementary. “We look for ways to work together,” says Lorraine. “Not ways to win.”

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Trust and openness: Because their partnership was formed through IAMCP, QuickLearn and Directions had a foundation of trust that allowed their companies to be open to the idea of partnering. Earning this trust is key to any successful partnership.

When it comes to competing organizations, building partnerships may require some extra negotiation for “coopetition.” But when partners come to the table ready to collaborate using complementary solutions, they have all the ingredients they need for true success. Be sure to check out the new Microsoft Partner Community to start meeting partners who are ready to collaborate with you.

Do you have a great story about how you formed a partnership within MPN? Be sure to share it with us in the comments below.

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