5 Tips for Successful Insurance Partnerships
April 23, 2016 Greg Brown
I’m increasingly interested and excited to see the growth in partnerships between incumbents and startups. Here at Oxbow Partners we often work with people and teams that are on the interface between large incumbents and small startups. You could not meet two more different characters. But I’m not here to tell you what the differences are, we all know those. No, I want to deal with how misunderstandings of these differences can result in poor partner choices, particularly on the part of big business. I will propose my 5 top tips for creating successful insurance partnerships that come from seeing those that do it well.
The misunderstanding all stems from the oft-heard statement: “These startups are so different, we need to be more like them.”
There’s clearly huge value in large incumbents becoming more agile and innovative, there’s no denying that. However, whilst seemingly wise, this statement creates a risk of making poor choices. It confuses the difference between the cultures of large incumbents and startups with a measure of quality. These differences are also typically areas that big business is not set up to objectively measure, e.g. how critical is sitting on bean bags in meetings to creating a quality product at speed?
My plea to incumbents is: don’t mistake difference for quality. The most successful companies and individuals that we work with understand this. They manage to successfully balance value in culture with true quality.
So what characteristics can we learn from those that partner successfully?
Here are my 5 tips for creating successful insurance partnerships from my experience at Oxbow Partners:
1. Start with the similarities
Partnerships always work best when there is a good cultural fit between the parties. Try to find similarities that will strengthen the relationship. For example, if your company attracts analytically minded people then a partnership with an overwhelmingly creative startup is unlikely to succeed.
2. Be clear on the differences that matter
Work out the differences that are really important to long term success. I guarantee that if you really think about it, ‘wearing jeans’ and ‘having a foosball table’ will not be on the list. Also, make sure these differences can dovetail into your organisation otherwise you will struggle to make tangible change.
3. Look for evidence of sustainable value creation – don’t be fooled by snake oil
If you can’t find a truly valuable product with a compelling and real business model then be worried. No matter how innovative they seem – business models are critical.
4. Be true to yourself
I’m at risk of sounding like a self-help book here but it’s important not to pretend you are something that you’re not. If what you’re good at is global manufacture or distribution then that’s what your partner wants from you. Yes, you need to make this accessible in a startup-friendly way, but you don’t need to pretend to be a startup. Leave that to them.
5. Spend time where it’s valuable and focus – on both sides there are a lot of potential partners
For startups, this means kissing a lot of frogs before finding your prince. Be conscious of the time you are taking up on both sides. End discussions quickly if there is no value, startups will appreciate this. If you do get into action set short sharp and regular deadlines with clear outcomes.
I’d love to hear from others about their experiences, please do get in touch at [email protected].
Greg Brown is a Partner at Oxbow Partners, an experience-led consultancy to the Insurance industry.