Breeding Partnerships

Posted on June 26, 2007

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Last week, I traveled to Canada (including Winnipeg, Regina, and Saskatoon) with a representative from the Ministry of Agriculture of Kazakhstan to continue work on a current project we are undertaking. The representative is the director of an agricultural research facility in Astana, and the goal of the trip to parts north was to discover possible partnerships that may exist between Canadian agricultural organizations and universities, and those in Kazakhstan.

Working on projects such as this, it is always amazing to me what can be accomplished in a single meeting between two interested parties with legitimate stakeholder opportunities in a newly developing project. In this case, Canada is a global leader in grain development, processing, and milling technologies (among many other agricultural sectors).

One example is a meeting with held yesterday at the Western Canadian Farm Show in Regina, Saskatchewan. We met with a representative from the University of Saskatchewan that is responsible for developing international partnerships and liaisons. After discussing the goal of the project in Kazakhstan and the desire to establish connections with their research institutes, we were able to verbally agree to sign a “Letter of Intent” to begin working together that will be signed in the upcoming weeks. For the University, this is an opportunity to transfer know-how and technology to an important international market, and for the Kazakh counterparts, this is an opportunity to expedite the development of their agricultural research facility in Astana.

The meeting was established through significant planning and research from our end on behalf of the ministry to uncover possible linkages between the two parties and countries – planning that began with a simple cold call to the director of the Grains Research Laboratory at the Canadian Grain Commission (CGC) in Fall 2006. Many phone calls, emails, and rescheduled trips later, we were able to procure this and other highly successful meetings during the course of the week.

Not knowing much about grain and grain production in Canada, I relied heavily on the idea of “Investigative Selling” – asking many questions to uncover the possibility of partnership development and understanding the mutual benefit on both sides. This is a topic on which I will write further, but with this successful trip just concluded, I wanted to share this positive experience to those seeking partnerships from organizations and companies that may not appear to be a good match or may seem impractical because of geographic constraints.

Most importantly, it emphasizes the importance of treating partnership development as you would sales development. Without clearly presenting the benefit to the target organization, the chances for moving the relationship forward can be diminished. Fortunately, I was able to find the right person at the CGC who was willing to be proactive and consider the seemingly odd proposal of considering a partnership with a research facility in Kazakhstan.

And finally – if you’ve never visited Saskatoon in the summer – you are in for a very pleasant surprise. Wonderful city with great people and surprising restaurants. We were in Saskatoon on the first day of summer and finally saw the day creep into night at 11:00 PM, and morning arrive well before 5:00 AM.