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Paper info: Is it good to balance power in a buyer-seller “business marriage” and how it happens?


Is it good to balance power in a buyer-seller “business marriage” and how it happens?


Dariusz Siemieniako
Bialystok University of Technology
Dariusz Siemieniako and Maciej Mitr?ga

Place of Publication

The paper was published at the 34th IMP-conference in Marseille, France in 2018.


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Although the existence of power asymmetry between business partners has been widely acknowledged in industrial marketing literature, and within IMP community particularly, there is no consensus with regard to the use of power in buyer-seller business relationships and with regard to dysfunctional character of power asymmetry. This paper focuses on the concept of power balancing in buyer-seller business dyads at the theoretical and empirical level. Power (a)symmetry is defined here with regard to the mix of (a)symmetries in various power sources and based on actors perspective of relationship power. Consequently, power balancing is treated as an interactive process that is initiated by either buyer or seller, when the relationship is perceived as too dominated. This study extends few recent empirical works on power balancing in business relationships, because it uses a dyadic perspective (i.e. buyers and sellers perspectives) on balancing power with regard to both type of power: mediated and non-mediated. The study explores intriguing situations, where balancing power is initiated not by the weaker side, but by the stronger side that anticipates some benefits from the shift in power structure. This study utilizes a longitudinal case study approach with regard to Polish suppliers cooperating with business buyers within relationships characterized by substantial power asymmetry. In some of these dyads, suppliers were initially dependent on clearly powerful international buying companies, while in other dyads, power advantage was initially at the side of suppliers. The qualitative research design enabled not only exploration of power balancing process but also identification of economic and non-economic consequences of this process. The research provides the evidence that power balancing is, in general, “healthy process for a business marriage”, because it improves the relationship atmosphere and brings other benefits without resulting in relationship dissolution. However, there is no such thing like an “ideal” power symmetry, because relationship power is a dynamic phenomenon and there are always some imbalances with regard to specific power sources. This research argues that even if power balancing may be driven by one side in business relationship, the extent to which relationship becomes balanced eventually is based on interaction between both partners, relationship cycle and general business environment as well. Thus, the distribution of power cannot be fully controlled by the focal company, but on the other hand, there is potential to shape this distribution through some relationship tactics and conscious networking.