INSEAD Participant Interview
Managing Partnerships and Strategic Alliances
Hendrik de Zeeuw
"I am convinced that the traditional supplier–customer relationship in industrial marketing and sales will change over the coming years. Companies need to develop partnerships to share costs and knowledge, and speed up the pace of innovation. This course will gain increasing relevance for people in a managerial role in B2B markets."
Where are you now in your career?
I am an executive on the leadership team. I’m responsible for making sure the Business Unit Cables & Composites is profitable. As part of this, I determine the direction we take in developing our markets and products in cables (ranging from optical fibre cables to linear tension members such as ropes) and composites.
What were your key challenges before joining the programme?
My company wants to develop a market that replaces long-embedded materials such as steel and aluminium with high-end composites and synthetic fibres, which requires patience as we convince the market to change. It also requires industry insight. We often work on joint industry projects and enter development agreements with third parties, but we are not always very successful, so I wanted to boost my capabilities in this regard.
What key factors made you join the programme? Did you consider other institutions?
I attended INSEAD’s 2-week Asian International Executive Programme in 2009 in Singapore. It was among the best courses I have ever attended. So, when searching for an institute that could teach me how to better manage alliances and partnerships, I quickly sought out INSEAD.
What expectations did you have? Were these met?
I expected to be able to study the insights INSEAD had gathered on this topic, and to share experiences with other attendees. These expectations were certainly met, not least because we had some very good guests who had firsthand experiences that we studied.
What were the key takeaways on the programme?
There were a few: be clear up front about what all the parties bring to the table and what you want to get out of a partnership and share this among partners; define a few quick wins early in the cooperation as this creates a sense of support; and make sure senior management is involved in the partnership. This will help to resolve conflicts quickly and ensure alignment with company strategies.
Did the programme help you address the challenges you mentioned earlier?
Yes, it certainly did. I now recognise pitfalls earlier and clearly define roles with partners up front. I am also better able to lead the process.
Did you benefit from the diversity of participants on the programme?
Participants offered insights from their different backgrounds, ranging from legal to human resources. Having to explain your industry to an outsider challenges your acceptance of certain aspects of the status quo. It fuels creativity in solving issues at hand.
What did you think of the teaching style and methodologies of the faculty?
I knew from attending INSEAD in Singapore that teaching styles vary a great deal from one teacher to another, but in all cases, the teaching was high-quality. The teachers all know their subjects well. There was a lot of interaction and breakout discussions that kept things lively and made the long days easy to handle.
Would you recommend this programme to friends or colleagues? Why?
Absolutely. I am convinced that the traditional supplier–customer relationship in industrial marketing and sales will change over the coming years. Companies need to develop partnerships to share costs and knowledge, and speed up the pace of innovation. This course will gain increasing relevance for people in a managerial role in B2B markets.