Technical co-founder of Printify, a print on demand network to help merchants make more money in a simple and easy way.
While it’s an old maxim that business environments are constantly changing, few predicted the level of transition that unfurled in 2020. But somewhat unexpectedly, the pandemic also served as an opportunity in a certain sense. At my organization, for example, our leadership team ceased all current objectives to combat the impending uncertainty — allocating that focus toward identifying problems and posing solutions.
One key issue was beyond our capabilities alone. The objective could be achieved, but only by collaborating with an outside party. Fortunately, we found that partner in Shutterstock. Along the road of negotiation, three qualities rose to the forefront:
• Alignment: Reach an understanding regarding goals and operations.
• Transparency: Share relevant information on an active, inclusive basis.
• User Experience: Maintain a customer/consumer-centric perspective rather than tilting toward other objectives.
While entering into a discussion with outside entities can be stressful, a consensus on fundamental aspects kept things moving in a productive, collaborative direction. Ultimately, this clarity allowed for successful talks leading to full integration.
Here are four key takeaways to help you understand how to successfully integrate with another company:
1. Admit the problem.
My company operates within the print-on-demand ecosystem. As such, our core offering is a platform empowering merchants to create their own product lines. From a diverse catalog of options, users have the ability to design and sell variations of fulfillable goods.
It’s no easy thing to admit flaws in an entrenched business model. But ultimately, we discovered that ours catered toward artistic and tech-oriented audiences. All in all, we had effectively alienated a significant portion of our potential audience.
In order to identify potential issues, you should take a step back from daily tasks and observe your commercial processes through customers’ eyes. This ground-level viewpoint is very useful for identifying pains and potential improvements. A slow but active crawl through our merchant’s journey was incredibly useful for us.
2. Identify the solution.
With the problem clearly defined, the answer became apparent: Empower all merchants to produce quality artwork for products and stores. Implementing this action entailed integrating with a partner capable of transforming average individuals into graphic designers.
A partnership with Shutterstock could do just that. Its library of images, along with user-friendly editing tools, was exactly the thing to set our merchants apart. Unfortunately, Shutterstock operates under a licensing system — incompatible with our on-demand model.
There are various pros and cons associated with just about every proposed solution to a problem. However, when these steps are adequately workshopped, they become less foreign and more feasible. While analyzing actions, make sure to anticipate additional effects of the proposed solution — we debated (and rejected) several stopgaps that would’ve helped in certain ways but caused damage in the long run.
3. Find common ground.
When collaborating with another company, both sides can possess differing goals. This duality can lead to discomfort, miscommunication and wasted time. However, by adhering to the three main takeaways listed above, conversations always proceeded in a positive, productive direction.
Every single time, discussion orbited the journey of the merchant. Both sides agreed that instead of the goal being to boost sales, increase photo usage, scale revenue, etc., the root issue always concerned improving user capabilities. While other worthwhile goals existed on the periphery, this mutual understanding drastically enriched the negotiation process. With a clear, earnest understanding of the final objectives, talks were concluded successfully, and a payment system was finalized that fit the needs of both sides.
It’s imperative to remember the fundamental goals of any discussion during those proceedings. As these interactions can devolve into egotistical combat, maintaining a correlation between both side’s goals goes a long way toward resolving things effectively.
4. Join together successfully.
With the success of mediation, the task became integration. With that in mind, the speed at which this project was accomplished is arguably its most impressive aspect. Despite limited resources, our tech teams were able to complete this project in only two days.
This pace was made possible through the use of Shutterstock’s UI developer tool. In other words, instead of having our in-house engineers construct the entire project alone, we leveraged preexisting architecture to meet in the middle. Without active communication, this process would’ve taken much longer.
However, this is far from the end of things. Our partnership with Shutterstock continues even after we completed the negotiation and integration. With both sides maintaining clarity regarding objectives, goals and orientation, the teamwork continues and further improvements become possible.
How To Move Forward
All in all, any project must make sense from fundamental perspectives. Yes, all companies want to increase profitability, join with impressive partners, create value for the business and more. But, these mindsets are short-sighted and prone to complications. Instead of considering such bottom lines, the customer must come first.
Fortunately for us, the leadership and teams of both sides maintained these views throughout the process. By engaging in honest, communal action toward a clearly specified common goal, the task was less a labor and more an exciting journey. While there’s always more work to do, this experience was incredibly rewarding (personally and professionally) for all involved: Printify, Shutterstock and all the merchants enjoying their brand-new toys.