For this edition of Bond Talks, Bond interviewed Peter Dougherty, the Senior Director of Partnerships at Lightspeed. We asked Peter about the reasons why Lightspeed started working with partners, how this evolved over time and how they make sure they work with the right partners. We also asked Peter to share some secrets and strategy on the success of Lightspeed’s Partnership Program and about his influence on the program.
Lightspeed (TSX: LSPD) is probably mostly known as a global leader in delivering ePos systems for both retail and restaurants, but to summarise it like that would be too simple: They offer much more! Lightspeed offers a complete range of solutions for SMB; with integrated e-commerce, analytics and accounting platforms entrepreneurs have a complete solution to get started, work smarter and create valuable experiences for their customers, both online and offline. In addition, Lightspeed also offers a whole range of integrations with other SaaS platforms to meet the needs of specific industries.
Bond: “Thank you so much for your time Peter. For the people that don’t know you, can you introduce yourself shortly?”
Peter: “Sure! My name is Peter and I am part of the Lightspeed team for over 9 years now. In those years I’ve had many different roles and what makes it fun is that I am mainly involved in new projects, ideas or products within Lightspeed. This could be setting up a new department, implementing new products or strategies. That is also the reason why I started my current role as Senior Director of Partnerships around 2,5 years ago.”
Bond: “What was the situation before you joined the Partnership team? Do you recall the main reason to start a Partnership Program and has it always been such a focus?”
Peter: “Yes, working with Partners has always been a part of Lightspeed’s strategy. In fact, in the very beginning, we mostly sold through Partners, not direct. Only once we started to scale, we focused on a direct sales strategy to increase the margins and sales velocity. This is completely normal and worked very well, we realised great growth numbers.
However, during this time, we did not have much focus on Partnerships: only a few persons in the company were taking care of our partners. We did grow the Partnerships team organically over time, but the real focus came back about 2,5 years ago, when it became clear that a strong and global partner network was required to ensure long term success for Lightspeed.”
Bond: “So that was your cue to get involved in Partnerships. What is your view on Partnerships?”
Peter: “I see Partnerships as an instrument to achieve the objectives of Lightspeed. Of course, Partnerships evolve around building long term relationships, however you always need to keep our eyes on the prize. If you don’t, you risk getting tangled up in wooly Partnerships that do not bring either party anything and you are wasting valuable time and resources. To prevent that, I need to know exactly where we need partners and why.
In some markets there is no added value in working with Partners as we can reach, sell and service our clients directly. There are other markets however, where Partners do bring added value. Take Hotels, where we can bring added value when we are integrated to the Property Management System (PMS). To ensure good results for Lightspeed, I know that we need to work together to reach these customers and serve them right.”
Bond: “What type of Partnerships does Lightspeed offer and how many active partners are there?”
Peter: “In general, I believe all Partnerships can be categorised as 3 general types: Marketing Partnerships, Sales Partnerships and Product Partnerships. At Lightspeed, we focus on Sales Partnerships and Product Partnerships and our Partnerships team manages hundreds of partners.”
Bond: “The fact that Lightspeed has hundreds of active partners shows that the program is a success. What is your secret to find the right Partners?”
Peter: “First of all, because we know where we need partners and for what reason, we can target them specifically with a strong value proposition: Selling our solutions increases the quality of their own service/product, it helps them generate more revenue, their clients will perform better using our solutions and by selling our solution they can target more (potential) clients.
Second, to further ensure the success of the Partnership, you can’t forget that a Partnership is a two way street. Honesty and being clear on what is expected from the Partnership from the start is vital. We know what we can bring Partners and are committed to that, but our partners also know our expectations and should also commit to this before we get started.”
Bond: “Finding the right partners is one thing. Can you share some other examples of what you think makes the program this successful?”
Peter: “There are multiple factors for success or course, but treating our Partnership Program as a product and ensuring success for our partners are the main drivers.
Internally, we approach the recruitment of new partners as a sales process: We have KPIs and targets in place and developed a clear sales strategy based on the facts mentioned earlier. This process ensures a steady flow of new partners that are a good fit for Lightspeed and who are aware of the benefits and expectations of the Partnership.
After we signed a new partner, each partner is taken care of by our Partnerships team, who ensures our partners get everything they need. All the necessary actions are taken to enable success for our partners, as a regular Customer Success Managers does for regular clients. This is crucial, because in the end only successful partners lead to a successful program.”
Bond: “We assume you try new things to improve the success of the program and stay ahead of the curve. What have you tried so far and how did this work out?”
Peter: “Lately I have been testing something that seems very promising. Probably everyone working in Partnerships can relate to the fact that not all partners are evenly successful all the time and sometimes they need a little help. I spotted that some partners had an amazing amount of opportunities, but they were not closing. So I decided to get someone from our Team to help our partner to close these deals.
It was a great success and I’ve decided to roll this out on a much larger scale, because at the bottom line, that is what it's all about, to get new clients.”
Bond: “A last favour to ask: After 2,5 years of leading a large and global Partnership team, you know what works and what doesn’t. Do you have any tips for companies thinking to start Partnerships or companies that want to scale their Partnership Program?”
Peter: “First of all, everyone should regard Partnerships for what it is, a way to generate revenue. So be clear on this and decide first on what you hope to get out of a partner program.
If you are just getting started, I advise you to start with as many Partners as possible. You need to make a name for yourself and partners are a great way for that to happen. But you also need to test and see what types of partners will work. If you’re too selective, it will take you too long to find “product-market fit” in terms of partners and you won’t accelerate revenue. In those early days, every deal is a deal and super important!
In case you already have a program in place and you are not seeing the results you wish, you should go back and clearly define what you want from your partners. Once this is clear, narrow down on quality over quantity. Look closely at your objectives and those of your partners: if they are not aligned, you will miss out on potential revenue.”