How We Build Long-term Business Partnerships

We’ve recently celebrated our twelfth birthday at Monterail, and while the list of our clients and the projects we helped develop has grown longer over the years, our willingness to share what we know remains the same. In this article, we’re sharing more about one of our strongest assets: our unique approach to building long-term business relationships with our clients. 

What’s Behind Our Approach?

In short, our approach to building long-term business partnerships stems from our core values

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They drive our internal activities, how we approach processes on an organizational level, and how we work and communicate with our clients and other business partners.

Our values are connected to another priority as a business that has been operating for the past 12+ years: longevity. We want to ensure that we’re able to keep adapting and stay sustainable for our team members and our long-time clients and technology partners. With longevity in mind at all times, we want to grow as steadily as possible.

Since our beginnings, we have had a chance to work with multiple clients and we’ve had our fair share of success and challenges over the years. I asked our skillful Project Managers, Julia Szablewska, Łukasz Pawłowski, and Magdalena Barańska for their advice on how to build business partnerships that can stand the test of time. 

You can also check the insights from our Customer Success Manager, Szymon Sokołowski, and Phillipa Hicks, Seat Unique's Co-Founder and Head of Product, one of our longest collaborators. The interview with Phillipa is featured below and we discuss her perspective on our partnership. She also shares a few extra tips at the end of this article, so stay tuned!

How to Build Long-term Business Relationships

Building reliable relationships between companies is no small feat, and it’s an activity that takes time, effort, and patience. Here’s the list of tried and true ways to achieve business longevity from our Project Management and Customer Success teams.

Listen to the client’s needs and adapt accordingly

You may already know how important it is to approach each and every project with an open mind and stay aware of its unique business circumstances and needs. If you’ve collaborated with a business partner for a while, remember that these conditions may change, so listening carefully and being mindful of - at times - rapid changes will be the way to go. 

This is what happened to Monterail and our long-term partner, Seat Unique when the first lockdown in the UK was imposed and suddenly, the team found themselves deciding on the next steps of Seat Unique’s product - a marketplace specializing in premium tickets for live events - in a situation where all events were canceled or postponed due to Covid-19-related regulations. 

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Instead of ending our partnership - which was going on 2 years at the point - we reduced the number of hours of development and worked behind the scenes on maintenance and the planning of a feature that had been in the works for months. Once the restrictions were lifted in mid-2021, we were able to move quickly ahead with implementing the feature and testing it with real-time users starting in 2022. 

We treat all customers exactly the same, and we will not leave them behind regardless of how their business circumstances change over time.

lukasz-pawlowski Łukasz Pawłowski Project Manager
at Monterail

Be open and transparent about your intentions

Nothing beats communicating openly and being clear about your steps and the reasons behind your decisions. It allows both sides of a business relationship to know where they stand and to discuss any opportunities and challenges as they are, without any misunderstandings or (false) assumptions. 

We are transparent when we talk to our clients, and we are very open about our intentions behind our business decisions, staffing, and pricing - it’s all clearly communicated right from the start.

szymon-sokolowski Szymon Sokołowski Account Manager
at Monterail

This way of communicating works really well for us in all of our projects, but it was particularly crucial in our longest-standing cooperation with Cooleaf, an employee recognition platform that helps businesses appreciate and celebrate their team members. 

Our partnership started almost right after Monterail was established as a company and has lasted for the past 10 years - time flies! With both businesses facing similar changes - especially regarding team growth - we were able to build a close and trusting collaboration. There’s no distinction between our project team and the Cooleaf crew when we discuss the roadmap for the tool and it even goes beyond that - we treat the platform as our internal product that we gradually grow and maintain so it can thrive for years to come.

We totally pivoted within Cooleaf—we basically built three different products with the help of Monterail.

john-duisberg John Duisberg Co-founder
of Cooleaf

Build trust and know that it takes time

With long-term partnerships with Seat Unique and Cooleaf, it’s essential to make sure that both teams are aligned at all times and that they trust each other. While it may be different for particular team members, in general, building trust is not something that happens overnight - it has to be taken care of and revisited as often as possible. How do you do it in practice?

One of the crucial elements is team engagement - our Project Manager, Magdalena Barańska, who works with the team at Guild, a messaging tool, captured it best when she described how the partnership ebbed and flowed over the years, and what steps both parties take to keep it healthy and growing.

We communicate openly and each and every team member can reach out to anyone on the team. Every opinion and perspective counts. We go beyond developing and delivering features. We constantly challenge ourselves and discuss every step in detail. During our design sync meetups, we discuss features on a more abstract, conceptual level, with a technical team member, our designer, and a person from the Guild team present.

magdalena-baranska Magdalena Barańska Project Manager
at Monterail

In addition to regular standups and design syncs, the team also holds deep-dive sessions every 5 - 6 months to discuss the roadmap for the product and the next steps for each of the new features. With each team member being able to express their honest opinion, it’s not difficult to see how they all are contributing to the growth of the product.

Embrace responsibility

It’s easier said than done, but embracing responsibility by both sides of a business partnership is what makes it successful in the long run. The essential aspect here is the core of every partnership - if you treat it as such it means that the parties are equal and working aligned rather than separately. 

The client’s team trusts us and knows that we know the product inside out. We not only plan for the next feature but we also think about the roadmap and the infrastructure. We’re technology partners in a very broad sense. We try to predict what will happen and act accordingly.

julia-szablewska Julia Szablewska Project Manager
at Monterail

One of Monterail's strengths is a 360-approach to working with clients and developing products. To ensure the same quality of your delivery services, stay inquisitive about product development - your clients should be able to come to you with a draft of a new feature and then be sure that you’ll take this concept, run with it, and deliver it in a way that they have not thought about before.

Bonus advice: go the extra mile - always

It may sound cliché, but going beyond what’s been set in the initial scope of the project and then listed in Jira is what you should strive for when cooperating with your customers - it’s also a practice that we follow at Monterail. One of the examples here is our dedication to developer bootcamps and making sure that our junior engineers work for the real-life projects we develop for our clients on a non-billable basis. 

Over the years, we’ve continued to show great velocity in shipping new features. We release an update to the app every week.

ashley-friedlein Ashley Friedlein Co-Founder and CEO
at Guild

If you also want to build long-lasting collaborations, ensure that you know what this cherry-on-top service looks like for you.

In the interview below, Phillipa Hicks, Co-Founder and Head of Product at Seat Unique shares her perspective on our collaboration and how to make a business partnership work even under challenging conditions.

An Interview with Phillipa Hicks, Co-Founder and Head of Product at Seat Unique 

Matylda Chmielewska: We started collaborating back in 2018 and had our share of opportunities and challenges over the years, including the first Covid-19 lockdowns back in 2020 when the hospitality sector was severely hit and stopped in its tracks. Could you tell me more about how our collaboration looked at that time from your perspective and how has it evolved since then?

Phillipa Hicks: We were experiencing strong growth pre-Covid. In September 2019, we had launched a new piece of software and were making continuous steps forward at advancing our technology offering. We could see where we wanted to get to and how to do this. Then in March 2020, Covid hit, and our sales dropped to zero overnight.

Ever since our partnership started, we have maintained a strong relationship with Monterail, which means we can scale up or down with your full support. However, we had to dramatically cut costs throughout the whole business this time.

phillipa-hicks Phillipa Hicks Co-Founder and Head of Product
at Seat Unique

Ever since our partnership started, we have maintained a strong relationship with Monterail, which means we can scale up or down with your full support. However, we had to dramatically cut costs throughout the whole business this time.

The situation was very worrying and very uncertain, but we managed to downsize the team from seven people to one maintenance staff on a retainer set at 16 - 20 hours a month. That was a big change and something we were hoping wouldn’t last for long.

As the first lockdown played out, we kept it at that rate. It wasn’t until the end of summer 2020 that we looked at increasing that rate. Then we had the second and third lockdowns, with no live events for months. We didn’t expand the size of the team until we started seeing the return of live events, demand from fans [Seat Unique users], and sales starting to pick up.

Then it all just boomed in early 2021. When this happened, we were focused on maximizing the opportunity in challenging times and not letting this crisis go to waste. Prior to this boom, we faced many challenges across the business, where we had to downsize and bootstrap to cut costs so we could survive and ride it out.

Having done exactly that, we came back bigger and stronger. We have grown from a team of one maintenance engineer to now having sixteen on board.

MC: What was - in your opinion - crucial for our partnership to last that long and what advice would you give to other teams/businesses that want to have long-term business collaborations?

PH: Our tech team has obviously changed a lot over the years, but we’ve always worked exceptionally well together. Although we’ve had Project Managers come and go and a rotation of Product Designers, our relationship has grown from strength to strength. I believe we have done this by ensuring that we always put our key values of trust, transparency, and honesty into practice - and we continue to build upon them.

When first starting Seat Unique in 2018, we really struggled to find any agency that matched the criteria we were looking for. Then we got introduced to you. As soon as you walked through our office door for our initial planning meeting, we haven’t looked back. The quality of the work you provide is excellent, and I really like how you’re honest and transparent about the specialization of each person. Project management is also key because they are the glue, right? They are the ones that translate the business objectives to the developers and the rest of the team.

I would also say that your friendly and welcoming approach was crucial here. Whenever I come to visit your office, I feel like a part of the team. It’s not you and us, it’s one team, and that attitude has played a massive role in our success.

As for the advice I’d give, do your research, and look for an agency that has the expertise, experience, and growth with previous partnerships. Also, be open and honest about what you’re trying to achieve. If you can communicate everything, then you won’t be disappointed. If you don’t have this transparency, you may find yourself tripping up. 

MC: What is unique about Monterail’s approach to building business partnerships and how do we compare to other companies?

PH: I’d say one more time that honesty and transparency are what’s unique about your approach. Also, the support that we get from you and we give back is integral to the success of our partnership. We’ve established an incredible relationship with an unmatched ownership level. Without that, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

You take real care of your team members and that gets translated into your business partnerships and your customers like us. You are passionate and live and breathe the projects you work on.

Looking at other suppliers that we work with, our partnership with you is our longest standing to date, which speaks volumes. Your attention to detail is also superb. What I also really like about working with you is that you challenge us.

From my point of view, I have a business objective and I direct the team for what we need to be achieving in terms of KPIs and milestones. However, all the engineers, project managers, and designers are happy to say that they would not recommend something from a technical perspective and their experience. I truly value their expertise and opinions, which we can all learn from.

Over To You

Trust and transparency are at the very core of everything we do at Monterail, and luckily, these are also the building blocks of any healthy business partnership. If you’d like to start this journey with us and work on a project together, reach out via our Contact page:

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