SmartSynch’s Partnership Process


Tim J. Smith, PhD
Founder and CEO, Wiglaf Pricing

Published March 19, 2003

While partnerships may be economically efficient, many small technology-driven companies have difficulties establishing them. SmartSynch, with 18 major utility clients, is much smaller than Itron, who brings over 2000 utility clients globally. How did they convince Itron to partner?

Mr. Rodgers, CEO of SmartSynch, shared the process to founding this strategic partnership.

In January of 2002, Mr. Rodgers met LeRoy Nosbaum, CEO of Itron, at a JP Morgan conference in New York City. Suspecting that there might be ground for forging a relationship, Mr. Rodgers called Mr. Nosbaum a week later for an appointment. Mr. Nosbaum deferred to confer with his senior executive team. Another week passed, and Mr. Rodgers followed up. Like most first efforts in establishing a relationship between small and large firms, Itron turned down SmartSynch. They believed that SmartSynch’s offering was competitive in nature and not complimentary.

Mr. Rodgers considered Itron’s rejection and concluded that the potential relationship deserved a second try. He called back and again requested an appointment to clarify the partnership potential and break out of a pigeonhole. Mr. Nosbaum directed Mr. Rodgers to meet with Russ Vanos, Vice President of the Electric Business Unit at Itron, who would ultimately be responsible for distributing SmartSynch’s product should a partnership emerge.

Mr. Rodgers, along with key members of his management team, met Mr. Vanos and key members of his management team at an industry conference in Miami in February 2002. During the meeting, SmartSynch presented their ideas about the potential partnership. The key issue for SmartSynch in this meeting was to get out the right information. After this meeting, Itron agreed to further explore the relationship.

Shortly there after, SmartSynch’s management team flew from Jackson, MS to Spokane, WA. Greeting them was the senior management team of Itron, including the CEO, general managers, product development, sales and business development, and finance. The key objective of this meeting was to discuss the complimentary vs. competitive nature of the two product offerings and to receive support for the partnership from all groups within Itron.

Over the next several months, product mangers, sales, and technical support met to examine the potential for a relationship. They concluded that their offerings were indeed complimentary. By June, a letter of intent was executed and the formation of the partnership agreement began. Team synergy was key in facilitating the legal arrangements. Once finalized, SmartSynch’s board approved the agreement.

By September of 2002, nine months later, the distribution partnership was announced. Immediately afterwards, the two teams began working on the back-office integration to facilitate the sales and marketing effort. Nine months is quick for an extensive relationship between two partners with little prior experience in distribution arrangements. Well done SmartSynch and Itron.

For further discussion on the difficulties small firms face in forging meaningful partnership arrangements, see Channel Conflict of Interest, printed July 17, 2002 in the Wiglaf Journal. (

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About The Author

Tim J. Smith, PhD, is the founder and CEO of Wiglaf Pricing, an Adjunct Professor of Marketing and Economics at DePaul University, and the author of Pricing Done Right (Wiley 2016) and Pricing Strategy (Cengage 2012). At Wiglaf Pricing, Tim leads client engagements. Smith’s popular business book, Pricing Done Right: The Pricing Framework Proven Successful by the World’s Most Profitable Companies, was noted by Dennis Stone, CEO of Overhead Door Corp, as "Essential reading… While many books cover the concepts of pricing, Pricing Done Right goes the additional step of applying the concepts in the real world." Tim’s textbook, Pricing Strategy: Setting Price Levels, Managing Price Discounts, & Establishing Price Structures, has been described by independent reviewers as “the most comprehensive pricing strategy book” on the market. As well as serving as the Academic Advisor to the Professional Pricing Society’s Certified Pricing Professional program, Tim is a member of the American Marketing Association and American Physical Society. He holds a BS in Physics and Chemistry from Southern Methodist University, a BA in Mathematics from Southern Methodist University, a PhD in Physical Chemistry from the University of Chicago, and an MBA with high honors in Strategy and Marketing from the University of Chicago GSB.