Despite being a fundamentally flawed concept, JBP (joint business planning) has become the definition of professional account management. While some suppliers know how to get the wins of controlled business growth, many charge willingly into its snares.

A couple of decades ago, account business planning was kicked off by suppliers in an honest attempt to drive better forecasting and service. As time went on, the customers who recognised the administration benefits got behind it, planning with suppliers positively. The budgeting and forecasting benefits were being enjoyed and JBP developed into a creative, innovative and inspiring methodology. The trust developed gave an opening to a sinister new phase, however, when large customers started leveraging the power at the end of the year, holding up the planning process to get unearned retrospective bonuses. The mood of JBP fell short of its original goals.

While there are many excellent variations on joint planning coming right now, I still see problems. JBP has become so retailer-driven that suppliers are now led completely by disparate sets of accounts. They invest massive resource in many different annual timelines and needs. Retailer templates in many businesses are the only form of JBP tools and as a result suppliers have lost internal focus.

This well-intentioned concept has become a burden rather than a driving force and many companies simply regurgitate last year’s plans with small tweaks.

The secret for suppliers is understanding the purpose of JBP: business development, business administration or just another form of negotiation. Decide at the outset which it is then start with a blank sheet of paper. Truly joint business planning means involving the customer at the outset. While the rewards can be big with these accounts, it also involves a huge amount of resource. But that’s not the only way. In the middle ground you can also develop customer-centric plans without the need to involve the customer right through the process. Decide which is right for you both.

Start early, keep an internal focus, allow creativity and only do true joint work when your attitude is reciprocated.

David Sables is CEO of Sentinel Management Consultants