Blog: Trusted relationships are a two-way street
Last week me and my team whooped and cheered as the water technology company Hydraloop won the Best of the Best Award at CES 2020, the world’s largest consumer technology show. It was an absolutely remarkable achievement for this Dutch company, which had also recently opened its U.S. office in our Global Water Center. We are extremely proud of Hydraloop and honored to know Arthur and Sabine, who lead this company, before they became global rock stars overnight.
Our association with Hydraloop didn’t just happen overnight, as it was more than a year in the making. Truth be told, our connection really needs to be traced back five years before that, to a budding relationship with a group called Water Alliance in Leeuwarden, Netherlands.
Parallel to the founding and mission of The Water Council, the Water Alliance was seeking to develop partnerships across the world, something that we also sought to develop. Similar to dating, we began to check each other out. We talked on the phone, shared information and planned for our first in-person visits.
Leaving our water technology cluster in Milwaukee, I headed to Leeuwarden to begin the exploration. What I discovered was a beautiful small city with a large water technology footprint, including impressive academic programs and innovative water businesses. Of course, the most rewarding and promising part was the great people–namely Hein Molenkamp, who leads the Water Alliance, and his colleague Alex Berhitu.
Our “dating” continued, with visits to Milwaukee by Hein, my subsequent visits to Leeuwarden, and Hein and I running into each other at conferences around the world. What emerged was the development of trust, which is at the heart of any strong working relationship. There was a level of honesty with each other on what we and our organizations can do or cannot do. We “shot straight” with each other and that led us to create a more formalized partnership.
I work from a philosophy that for any partnership to really work, you need to bring something to the table, not just take, take, take. This is the same approach I believe is inherent to Hein and the Water Alliance, and why I believe our partnership has flourished. Simply put, we trust each other.
Over the years, both of our organizations have grown, and more people from around the world have come into our water cluster partnership. What’s been great to see is that the trust between myself and Hein has extended to our staffs. We all look forward to seeing each other, grabbing a bite to eat, getting a drink and chatting about big work things as well as small personal things. We all trust each other.
Where does this all lead?
Several months ago, when Hydraloop was ready to explore the U.S. market, Hein and the Water Alliance directed them to The Water Council because there was a trust that Hydraloop would be treated and provided the same level of service that they were accustomed to in Leeuwarden.
At the same time, one of our other partners here in Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, was planning an international trade trip to Europe in early 2020 to explore possible collaborations. We insisted they visit the Water Alliance, knowing they would be a value-adding, trusted resource. When we have a company from our cluster that is seeking to expand into that part of the world we will, of course, direct them to the Water Alliance for help.
These types of trusted relationships don’t have to be limited to two partners. It is for that reason in late 2018 The Water Council joined the Water Alliance as well as PUB in Singapore; Mekorot in Israel; Korea Water Cluster in South Korea; and Jiangsu Water Cluster in China in launching the Global Water Tech Hub Alliance. This Alliance enables us to have the trust that we are teamed up with strong and valuable partners and be assured that by working together we can advance our shared goal of advancing innovative water technologies around the world.
Meaningful, strong partnerships take time, require personal commitments, active engagement, complimentary missions and by all means mutual trust that is a two-way street or in the instance of the Global Water Tech Hub Alliance – a six-way street with a valuable intersection.