Manufacturing Joy

As Augury’s VP of Strategic Alliances, Mercer Rowe is all about partnerships. However, as the company enters a new phase, the focus will be fully on creating ‘customer joy’ – not ‘partner joy’. The question is now: “How can we work together to aim at that North Star of driving customer outcomes?” 

Augury VP of AlliancesMercer Rowe has had a few months to settle in. After years of setting up partnerships for both startups and Fortune 500 companies, Mercer is now happy taking the middle path as Augury’s VP of Strategic Alliances. “We are at a crossroads: no longer snowflakes, not yet enterprise. Partnerships will give us that further boost forward.”

We sat down with Mercer to talk about how he sees the next year unfolding now that the nature of partnerships are changing with Augury entering a whole new phase.

So, what’s been your big learning moment since arriving at Augury?

I’ve got a firmer handle on the different phases of partnership. When a company starts out, you often partner with companies that want to partner with you – as opposed to the other way around. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that. But often, such partnerships will start from a place where the larger partner is trying to solve a problem in the execution of their strategy – and it may not be the same problem you’re going after. For example, they might be trying to digitally transform and they think you can help them on that journey.

Now, the challenge is that such a partnership is not necessarily aligned with what should be a business’s North Star: driving outcomes for customers. I have seen this misalignment a lot. It’s certainly not unique. And a lot of these early partnerships don’t evolve or execute as quickly as they should because of this.

Can anyone or anything be blamed for these misaligned partnerships?

It’s not a fault or a blame issue. Early on in conversation with the CEO, the board and the senior executives, everything seems aligned around customers. It’s only when it trickles down into an organization that change management becomes so critical to being able to actually drive the intended outcomes for customers. 

In theory, the goal of partnering is always to serve the customer, not to serve the partner. It’s actually a mantra I’ve given to teams for years: our job is never to create partner joy. The goal is to create customer joy with partners. And this should be our goal and the partner’s goal.

So, as a maturing company, Augury is now in a better position to align with partners on customer joy?

Yes. I think we are at an interesting point to transform our partner relationships. Early on, the reason you partner is often around things like credibility, access to markets, and so forth. Now we can orient ourselves around other questions. How do we build better solutions for customers? How do we do that together with our partners? How do we go into new industries? How do we access new types of machines? And how do we do that all faster and better with our partners? 

We’re shifting into a mode where we have a much better feeling and a handle on why we partner, and even now more granularly, why we partner with specific partner types, and how we want to partner with them to achieve those outcomes.

And is it possible to realign your older partnerships to work more towards these new goals?

Absolutely. It’s about communicating: Hey, when we started this thing, we each had expectations. Now things have changed. We’re not perfect, you’re not perfect. Now we have these new models. So how do we go from here? Of course, not everybody’s going to be brought along. And that’s okay. But the goal is always to say: we’ve learned a lot in the process and let’s find a way to evolve together.

We’re at a point where it’s all evolved into a focused attack plan: we know the reasons on why we want to partner. This creates much, much healthier relationships – ones poised for growth.

As a company, how do you know you are ready to go to the next level of partnering? 

A certain self-knowledge. As you evolve as a business, you begin to have a better sense of your value proposition, and that secret sauce at your core that makes you you. And you’re never going to trade that off. 

You’re also no longer going to pitch a potential partner in terms of: I can solve all your problems. Instead, you start the conversation upfront: that we have this business model, and we have this need to solve our customers’ problems. And we think that by working with you, we can solve our customer’s needs much more effectively. We also think that’s good for you. Both of us. But it’s especially good for our customers. That’s a very different conversation.  

Of course, when you have this great technology like Augury, you can always get people’s attention by saying we’ve got some really cool stuff. But it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re creating outcomes. And now we’re at a point where it’s all evolved into a focused attack plan: we know the reasons on why we want to partner. This creates much, much healthier relationships – ones poised for growth.

Did the recent announcements around the new Baker Hughes partnership, the new round of funding, and Augury as a newly bucking unicorn have a lot to do with jump-starting this new phase? 

I would say it’s a big piece of it, because there’s obviously a credibility element to that. And the more credible you become in the market, the more you’re able to dictate the terms. That’s just a practical reality. But there’s another piece at play: we’re better at structuring partnerships. We have been able to take the learnings from prior partnerships and move it forward to find more complementary partnerships – and bring the results to the customer.

The contracts are done. The product is done. We’re now able to execute with much more velocity in terms of new partnerships. Everything is ready to go.

Is there a next step in building partnerships? 

The ultimate goal should always be pure partnership Nirvana – maximizing customer joy. You can look at it as a continuum. You begin as a total snowflake with very opportunistic early partners – you learn something from them but it’s not at the scale level. You then move up the ladder.

Right now, we’re in that mode of knowing what we want. We have the business models and outcomes defined. We know who we want to target around these outcomes. The contracts are done. The product is done. We’re now able to execute with much more velocity in terms of new partnerships. Everything is ready to go.

We’ve gone from snowflake to deterministic, and now it’s onward to Nirvana.

So, it’s time for Augury to enter Partnership Nirvana?

Yes. We’ve gone from snowflake to deterministic, and now it’s onward to Nirvana. We are already evolving with some great partners to give better service to our customers. And now it’s our mission to make partnering with Augury easier and even more rewarding going forward. But again: it’s all in the name of serving our joint customers.

 

You can also read: Introducing Mercer Rowe: A Career Built on Building Partnerships.