Silverchair Insights: Provider vs. Partner

Last month I had the opportunity to give a presentation to an audience of publishers, STM customers, and providers as part of the Association of American Publishers Learn, Connect, Grow series. The topic was “Finance for Non-Finance Professionals”. The general outline was to walk through, at a high level, the technical particulars of accounting/finance, the concepts around the time value of money and risk/return, and methods for sharing financial information through graphs and charts.

As is often the case with presentations, the portion that worried me the most was the Q&A that would follow. You never really know what you are going to get, and you just hope and pray that one of the questions isn’t a real stumper, causing you to look foolish in front of a group of strangers. Luckily, I was able to navigate through that portion unscathed.

However, there was one very interesting takeaway/reminder for me. Most of the interest and related questions surrounded the concept of time value of money and risk/return. Specifically, there were a number of questions on strategies for justifying projects/expenditures within an organization. Without delving fully into the concept of Time Value of Money, the general theme is that if one invests $____ today, how long does it take to recover or exceed that original investment? While the customers were asking from their point of view, i.e. investing $___ in a project with an expectation of earning $___ over a period of time, that’s also how we would look at it internally Silverchair. Thus, we are aligned.

As I reflected on the event while on the train home, it got me to thinking more about how the audience questions relate to Silverchair. There is a big difference between being a “provider” and a “partner” (beyond the recent Scholarly Kitchen article). A provider will deliver the request of the customer and bill them. This is why at home we call our cable company a “provider” – it’s largely a one-way subscription relationship and transactional. A partner relationship has a different connotation, more mutual in nature. The tenor of the questions reminded me how important it is that we continue to view ourselves as a partner and not become a provider. It’s what differentiates Silverchair from our competitors.

Our ability to help our customers develop, write, and tell their business/financial stories on their side, as much if not more so than our own, is really important for us. As a finance person whose role can often feel “transactional” (account, bill, collect, etc.), this event was a great reminder for me about our marketplace and where we fit.

Brian Fitzgerald, Director of Finance & Administration

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