Apr 19, 2015

7 Critical Elements to a Successful Partnership

Today is as good a time as any to take a new idea, form new partnerships towards a common goal. A business partnership is very much like life itself, and it is the human factor that always makes or breaks any relationship, collaboration, alliance or partnership. Whether in business or in life, it’s the human element that makes or breaks any forms of relationship, collaboration or alliance. Companies don’t create alliances and relationships people do.  

Since the beginning of time humans have been social animals. Some say that humans are like termites that live on small mounds on this planet and we only make them bigger and bigger. While some see this as a negative statement I think that is exactly who we are. Humans are social animals and we grow best when we share, co-exist and thereby co-innovate. We would never have been where we are today if not for our being intrinsically very social animals. However being a human is not enough to succeed in a relationship or partnership. We can all get into relationships but few can maintain that relationship at a level of quality that is truly a synergy of personal and professional force multiplier.

Partnering is a lot like dating, and if you have not read my recent fun blog on dating and polling then do run by it – ‘How Big-Data is making Polling Obsolete’. The first part of dating is honesty, but evidence proves that being honest seems to be the responsibility of only 50% of the respondents. There is the question of ‘id’ and ‘ego’. Ego being our portrayal of who we want to be perceived as and Id being who we actually are- its briefed in the blog. Finally it boils down to what we have to offer any partner, what differentiates you from the crowd, are your details complimentary or competitive, and finally how dedicated are you to the partnership and not simply yourself and your ego. Partners is a great relationship need to be transparent, trustworthy, mutually complementary and desiring a great and profitable relationship.

 Here is a list of critical elements that make partnerships successful.

In my experience, after two decades of helping companies create multiple forms of strategic collaboration, I came up with 11 critical success factors that could make or break a partnership in business.

  1. The Business Value element: The only test of any new idea is the impact it has on your bottom and top line. No matter what your partnership plans to deploy, build or service there has to be a clearly identifiable business benefit for your customers. This will be the reason customers will come to you and remain with you, this is the reason they will tell other customers about your company and this is the way the partnership will ultimately be beneficial to its customers and the partnership. The second part of this element is it must be beneficial to both partners. Partnerships must be designed so neither party loses, even if they don’t initially make a profit.
  2. The Trust element Trust is like the parachute chord between you as the jumper and the parachute as the partnership. Having worked together for long or briefly but having a strong trust factor. People work as a tram with other people they like to work with and can trust. There are volumes of research that establish that humans chose people they like. We like to team with them, partner with them, have relationships with them, marry them, and love spending our precious times with them. They are basically trustworthy and fun to be with. You need to genuinely trust your partners and never feel that they are not putting their cards on the table or have an agenda all of their own. There are enough successful stories between the founders of major companies and it all boils down to professional and mutual trust.
  3. The Compartment element– The big question in most exceptional partnerships is the professional compartmental element. When we studied Duo partnership one was always the outgoing, sales and marketing personality and the other the doer. This mix works exceptionally well so long as both partners understand their compartment. The best partnerships like Steve Jobs and Woz are based on very tight, even in uncomfortable situations, compartments. Woz never wanted to be Steve and Steve never wanted to be Woz- perfection. Learn from the best. These two complemented each other to form what can be viewed today as one of the world’s greatest technology company. Though partners need a compatibility of trust, likeability, values and processes, they also need to be very separate in who is accountable and owns what aspect of the partnership. Too many partnerships crumble when one compartment thinks they can do the job better o their own.
  4. The Alliance element Alliances are the strength of companies as they start to grow and need specialized skills or needs. No group of individuals can be exceptional in everything. Just like each individual has their own skills and strengths so does a partnership. An important part of a partnership is in identifying mutual strengths and making them stronger, along with also recognizing our weaknesses that could make the partnership weaker. Alliances are one way of getting past this hurdle.
  5. The Fairness element: If you plan to get the cake it must not be at the expense of someone else getting the crumbs. No one likes to be taken advantage of in any situation. So the more ownership an individual or a group has on the overall success of the company the higher must be their share of the pie. Fair never means equal. All parties must feel they are treated in a fair and professional manner and get out of the partnership a quid-pro-quo that is proportionate to what they are putting into it and contributing towards the overall growth.
  6. The Strategic element: Without a strategy all winds seem to be good winds. This includes the tactical, mid-term and strategic goals, visions and expectations. When partnerships fail they often do so either because different people had different agendas or different expectations. Partners have to be clear and transparent to all aspects of the lifecycle of the partnership and the partnership.
  7. Clear Communications element: Some partnerships communicate others communicate skillfully- this leads to miracles. Communications is the lynchpin of all relationships. All too often partners either try to hold communication of bad news or just communicate it blandly. We recommend partnerships can postpone good news a little but broadcast issues immediately. This leads to early resolutions and eliminates unnecessary headaches.

Be brutally honest in your partnerships. Share your experience and profits and don’t cut corners. Great things don’t happen overnight. Focus on the light- the key question is do you see the light at the end of the tunnel- then you are on the right track.

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