Dan Custis CEO and Co-Founder, ABM

Do you have a product you think would work well with or enhance another company’s product? Is there a company you’d like to partner with? Collaborations between companies can be mutually beneficial. However, sometimes it’s tough to get a foot in the door of the company you’d like to work with. In the biologicals sector, I am always working on partnerships with chemical companies, as we consider our products companions to the hard chemistry in seed treatments. We want to enhance the performance of the chemistry on the seed as well as our own product.

Whether you’re another biologicals company, a seed treater manufacturer or you sell processing equipment, whatever your sector is, there are certain boxes you must check to clinch that face-to-face meeting with the company you want to partner with.

For example, I’m often working with large chemical companies, which have viable research and development departments, and many have seed companies associated with them. You must understand the first order of business for these companies is to maximize the sale of their products on their seed. Thus, you must prove to them you have a quality product with independent, third-party data. In addition, your product should be in compliance with all regulations.

Next, be prepared to show the company you’d like to partner with how your products will enhance the performance of their products in the field with data from trial results, including those created by a third party. The test results of your products used in conjunction with the products of the company you’d like to partner with are critical. We’ve done our own independent testing with some of the seed treatments in the marketplace—that’s how we got in the door.

Therefore, trials, tests and data are your starting points. You must have the data as the decision to partner with your company is data-driven.

If you can prove you’ve got a quality product, and you have the data to back up your claims your product enhances another company’s product, then the third consideration is supply. If a company decides to partner with you, can you supply what they need? Also, have you taken logistics into account? For us, a challenge with supply is shelf life and on-seed viability once it’s applied.

Your company must also have credibility and a good reputation. Large and small companies want to know when they put your product on their seed that the performance will be consistent.

Their reputation, which is based on the seed quality or chemistry they deliver to their customers, is on the line. Those companies are going to be very cautious about adding anything to their products. Know that they’ll be making sure your company is credible.

Also, remember larger companies move slower. As a small company, we’re able to react to changes in the marketplace quickly, but larger companies can’t; they move at a much slower pace.

Finally, when you meet with a company, your partnership proposal may get rejected at first, but you must be persistent. It’s a good idea to check you’re talking with the correct person, which may require you to ask a lot of questions about who the right person is. From there, it’s all about building a relationship with that person until you’re both ready to enter into a partnership, in which your products together enhance performance in the field, and ultimately benefits farmers.