Faculty Book

Keep your enemies close and your business partners closer
Sandy JapFacBook

Sandy Jap, Professor of Marketing

In a gesture rarely seen, especially in a serious-minded business book, Sandy Jap admits her vices—tennis, red wine, and Cape Cod summers—in the dust-jacket copy for Partnering with the Frenemy: A Framework for Managing Business Relationships, Minimizing Conflict, and Achieving Partnership Success. Not only can Jap be reassured that her vices are forgivable (if not enviable), the book’s virtues outweigh all else.

Jap is a professor of marketing at Goizueta Business School, which she joined in 2001 following six years at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management. A cofounder of the Emory Marketing Analytics Center in 2010, Jap’s expertise lies in business-to-business management, channels of distribution, and go-to-market strategies.

BEHIND FRENEMY LINES

Language observers might wish to know more about frenemy’s origins. A portmanteau word— born of the union of friend and enemy—it has been around since 1953. Indeed, in what perhaps was its inaugural use, the newspaper and radio gossip commentator Walter Winchell wrote an article that year titled, “Howz about Calling the Russians Our Frienemies?”

Jap defines frenemization as “the tendency for partners who are initially noncompetitive friends to become enemies over time.” Jap identifies the relational highs and lows of current players—Samsung and Google, Martha Stewart and Macy’s, Costco and Coca-Cola—as well as resonant past examples, including Best Buy and Apple, Nike and Foot Locker.

At base, there are two reasons why business relationships fail: first, success in a partnership can lead to a rebalancing of that relationship that “gives rise to resentment, contempt, and often direct competition,” says Jap. The second reason is based on relational factors.

DON’T MARRY; JUST LIVE TOGETHER

Businesses cannot call their mother, a high-priced divorce lawyer, or top therapist for advice. For anyone thinking that business partnerships partake of greater rationality and thereby survive better than personal relationships, Jap has disappointing news: “The failure rates of partnerships and alliances have hovered between 50 percent and 60 percent for a number of years”—a figure that exceeds the US divorce rate.

Tempting as it may be to cast business partnerships as marriages, Jap cautions against doing so, saying, “To liken a partnership to a marriage implies that longevity is an indicator of success. Instead, performance and payoffs are the real indicators of success.”

A unique combination of research rigor and an accessible style, Jap’s book has garnered wide praise. Mark Bergen, of the Carlson School of Management at University of Minnesota, crowns Jap “the Dr. Phil of business relationships”—full of “knowledgeable, brutally honest, insightful, exciting, and valuable advice for successful business partnerships.”

Though clearly puzzled by business schools’ failure to embrace teaching about building successful business relationships, Jap ends by predicting that “leadership talent in partnering and organizational collaboration will continue to be one of the most urgent needs in the days and years ahead.”

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