The Benefits of Virtual Partnerships

Group fist-bumping across a conference table strewn with laptops and notebooks.

There are five universal truths to establishing and holding onto successful business partnerships:

  1. Maintain open and honest communication
  2. Set reasonable expectations
  3. Pay fairly and promptly
  4. Be generous with referrals
  5. Share mutual successes

What happens when part or all of the team is comprised of virtual workers? Will professional collaborations still thrive?

We’re fortunate to have built some terrific business relationships with our cadre of external agency partners. Each team offers us a unique skill set along with their own chemistry and personalities. Some of these relationships took us a few years to grow and others have happened more spontaneously, yet we appreciate them all.

It may seem counterintuitive considering how productive we are together, but geographic proximity is low on our priority list. We’ve proven what many already know: successful collaborations are possible regardless of where our partners hang their hats day-to-day.

Statistics on virtual work support this experience. According to a study published this year by Buffer and Doist, titled, State of Remote Work 2018:

  • In the U.S. alone, 43% of the workforce has spent at least some time working remotely, and that number has steadily increased throughout recent years.
  • Of these study participants, 70% work remotely 100% of the time and 90% plan to continue working remotely for the rest of their career.

With that many people choosing non-traditional work arrangements today, it makes it all that much more important for us to remain open to flexible collaborative constructs. We’d be missing out on exceptional talent if we didn’t consider working with vendors both near and far.

So how do we build a deeper level of trust with our virtual agency partners? After all we don’t always have the luxury of sharing water cooler conversation or heading out for a glass of wine with them after a long day. It’s crucial to find a way to establish a personal connection, and we often have to put in more effort to make that happen when we’re operating from afar.

Recently, one of our digital partners from West Palm Beach, Florida, flew up to Boston for a few days to meet us in person. We’d been working with them for about 8 months at this point, and it seemed like the right time to establish a face-to-face connection. I’ll admit to being a little nervous at first. Business between us was going really well and we had a good rapport via phone, text and email. I didn’t want to screw it up by looking too far behind the proverbial curtain.

I’m happy to report that their visit was a huge success! We made sure to plan a few great meals and showed them around our beautiful corner of New England to give them a taste of our surroundings. By the time they left to go back to Florida, I think we both had a sense that future projects we work on together would probably go even more smoothly because we had taken the time to get to know each other better.

Lina Calin, Digital Project Manager at Foster Made, shares her perspective on building relationships while managing virtual teams:

“By intentionally communicating with empathy, you build a relationship between human beings who have thoughts, feelings, and personal interests, not just two “resources” playing the roles of project stakeholders. As you work to build relationships, even through digital communication, your projects will be more successful, your teams will be happier, and the likelihood of future success with those virtual teams will increase.”

With our local partners, we enjoy a natural convenience that living nearby allows. We plan regular meetings at each other’s offices to close the gaps inherent in complex projects with lots of moving parts. Even if it’s only once a month, just getting into the same room together helps us work through challenges more quickly and keeps our projects moving along faster.

Whether our partners dwell in Florida, Texas, Missouri, Boston, Oklahoma or in our brand new Portsmouth, New Hampshire shared office, they are the strands in the colorful web of creative talent that we benefit from every day. We’re energized by these collaborative relationships and see the important of putting in the time necessary to keep lines of communication open, face challenges together and offer mutual support to each other. We’ll leave the “location, location, location” stuff to the real estate folks. For us, collaboration is all about the “who” not the “where.”

Anne Richardson

​Anne Richardson is the owner and media director of Richardson Media Group, an agency specializing in media planning and buying, advertising campaign management and SEO.

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Richardson Media Group logo icon.
Anne outside the door of the Richardson Media Group office.
In addition to her role as owner and media director here at RMG, Anne authors the majority of our blog posts. Favorite topics include the entrepreneurial journey, media planning and buying, and forming productive agency partnerships.