In a city (Austin) regarded as boom town and incubator for technology, industry and business, it can be easy to be overwhelmed by the competition. We prefer a different approach, a collaborative approach. Nick Alter, the Principal of Alter Endeavors, explains.
What is a Joint Venture?
NA: Joint Ventureship happens when two or more companies realize that they run along congruent lines, but do different things, things that their clients regularly ask them to do. But, they don’t do that thing, and they would rather know and trust the company that does do that thing. So, a referral relationship is born. For example, Alter Endeavors does not provide PR services. Most likely, we will never provide PR services, but a ton of our clients ask us about this service. Instead, we pass all PR referrals over to our friends at Shelton Interactive. Inversely, Shelton Interactive only handles a certain kind of website project at a certain price point in house. If a website job falls out of scope for Shelton Interactive, then they pass it over to us to see what we can do.
Who does Alter Endeavors have a Joint Venture with?
NA: Right now I can talk about The Think Engine, Ampersand Agency, Square Bear Studios, Field Trip Creative, Overflow Communications, Shelton Interactive and Searchography. We have a few other PR firms, printing companies, SaaS providers, marketing consultants and SEO consultants that white label Alter Endeavors for their needs. Each Joint Venture partner has to meet our standards for quality of service before we allow them to white label us.
Why would someone, an entity, another company, etc. want to enter into a Joint Venture?
NA: The short answer is control. A slightly longer answer is control and opportunity. For example, look at one of our PR partners. Many PR agencies do not have an in-house team who can build websites at the level we do, as quickly as we do. Also, websites do require a certain modicum of ongoing support to keep everything running smoothly, and our in-house team does a stellar job of just that. Rather than changing their entire business model and building out an entire staff to try and compete with us, our agency partners choose to work alongside us instead. By doing this, our JV partners get to maintain control in the relationship. Sure, Alter Endeavors performs a vital role in these situations, but our mission is to make our JV partners look incredible. This also opens up new avenues of business our JV partners can pursue with their clients. By enabling our JV partners and plugging in where they need us the most, they can focus on making everyone involved more money and not worrying about losing their client to an agency who would rather be a competitor than a collaborator.
Why should businesses / companies consider a Joint Venture?
NA: Besides what I said earlier about not being built to handle certain things in-house and needing trusted agency partners answers this question, there is also the matter of accountability. We do not do video or animation work in-house at Alter Endeavors. If someone comes to us to do animation work then we are going to pass that to our JV partner and friend Erik Niells rather than trying to farm this work to an animation group in the Philippines. If someone needs a political speech writer, then we are going to pass that along to Overflow Communications and Andrew Barlow. We find solutions for these types of services because our clients need them, ask for them and we want to have resources on-hand that we can trust to do an incredible job in a timely and cost-appropriate manner. It’s all about accountability.
What type of company would make a great Joint Venture partner?
NA: For Alter Endeavors, we are looking for companies that offer print services, PR services, video services, photography services, application development services, animation services, unique web services that cater to niche needs, and so on. Good Joint Venture partners to us are organizations that look to serve specific needs with specific skill sets and they are really good at it. For us, the approach is collaborative, but also respectful. Just like we try to be flexible for our Joint Venture Partners, we ask the same in return. We will never micromanage our JV partners, and expect no less in return, but we will take guidance, advice and suggestions, always. Pricing should be competitive, but fair to everyone involved. We have no problem providing our JV partners a reduced rate for our services so they can build in a margin for their time and expertise as well.
Why is AE a good Joint Venture partner?
NA: Because we want to be. We want to collaborate. We want to be involved. For us, it’s not about crushing the competition unless the competition is only out to crush us.
How do you keep everything straight? Whose client is whose? Who takes the lead on a project, etc.?
NA: When one of our partners brings us one of their clients in need of a website, that client still ultimately belongs to our JV partner and we go out of our way to respect and honor that relationship. Although we always expect to be in charge during a web design/development engagement, we make it very clear to the client that we are involved purely in an auxiliary capacity. In this respect, if a client asks us for another service, we first pass that request to our JV partner to respond however they deem necessary. That being said, we never make it confusing for the client. If they ask us a question that would be better answered by our JV partner, their primary vendor, then we tell them “We don’t have an answer right this second, but let us get back to you about it today.” In this case, we pass the question over to our JV partner, and they then respond to the client in a timely and appropriate manner.
What advice would you give to two companies considering a Joint Venture?
NA: Try starting with smaller level engagements first in order to work out kinks in your combined process. Be sure to work out communication between your two firms. Who is whose primary point of contact in each possible engagement scenario? Also, have a system in place so that shows both sides what engagements are currently being worked on, how much each side gets from these engagements, what the deadlines are and who is responsible for delivering what when. There is more to it than this, but this is a really good place to start. Also, don’t get offended if a JV partner doesn’t bring you in on every project, just ask why and be respectful.