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The other day I was flipping through some guidance on strategic partnering. As each chapter finished, there was gui...
The other day I was flipping through some guidance on strategic partnering. As each chapter finished, there was guidance for councils on how to behave. This struck me as odd - is anybody telling private businesses how to behave, or indeed central government?. If the assumption is that businesses always get it right it is sadly wrong.

Putting central government to one side, what are the issues facing businesses in partnership arrangements?

In the past few months, I have heard companies bemoaning local government procurement processes. While the complaints are many and varied, they usually boil down to something like 'local government is too complicated and too slow.'

In effect, they are saying the major problem is that the customer is too hard to work with. I may not know much about running companies, but I do seem to remember companies that define their customers as problems rarely flourish.

Far more work needs to be done to educate colleagues in the private sector as to how local government actually works and why it behaves in the way it does. This is not the place to go for a full checklist, but here are three pieces of advice I would like to offer:

- If you define the customer's systems as a problem, you are getting it wrong

- If you bemoan the fact your sales person cannot get to see the leader/chief executive, reflect on how many sales people in your company actually meet any chairman or managing director

- Remember we use language very differently. Take, for example, the word risk. In the private sector this is primarily concerned with commercial risks. For a council it is far more likely to be political risk or litigation risks.

One of the things the Society for Local Authority Chief Executives and its business partners are committed to doing is helping those in local government and the private sector gain a deeper understanding of one another.

I believe many of the problems facing public/private partnerships are to do with a lack of a understanding. Trying to achieve greater understanding may be a gargantuan task, but one well worth tackling as it is should result in better services being delivered to our citizens.

David Clark

Director general,

Society of Local Authority Chief Executives

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