Partnerships in business can be extremely rewarding. But making them actually work can also be super, super tough.
While many seem to think that the brunt of the work is in finding and negotiating with the right partner, the truth of the matter is that the real, tedious work begins afterwards.
When focus is on getting the partnership to work.
Herein lies three epic struggles.
The least – although many would consider it the biggest – is to actually be able to realize the potential of the partnership. If you have done your homework and your due diligence properly, you will know that you can make this happen, because all the ingredients and components you need to get the job done is there.
Which brings me to the two other struggles that will determine whether the above mentioned potential succeeds or not:
Internal and external stakeholders.
To start off with the internal, one thing you have to realize before you even start thinking about partnering is what your own internal stakeholders mean by ‘partnerships’ and ‘partners’. Because that may not be a given in any way.
Some will say they think of win-win relationships, where you give something and get something else in return, and it’s a healthy back and forth that will draw on each partners core strengths and ability to contribute. Those are the good ones.
But some will also disclose that what they think of when they think of a ‘partner’ is ‘someone who contributes, so I can win’.
Those are the troublesome ones.
Because they won’t necessarily commit to contribute what is needed from your own end in order to make the partnership a success. Worst case for you they will leave you hanging out to dry in front of the partner – and solely put the blame for the ensuing failure on you
So making sure all internal stakeholders have the same positive understanding of what it means to partner and commits to seeing it through is absolutely key.
That leaves the struggles with your external stakeholders.
What you will often find here are the exact same issues as with your internal stakeholders – why would it be any different on the other side of the table?
Because in addition to the already known and typical issues, you will also have the challenge of making sure the alliance is healthy and well, so to say.
This can be no small task. Because it works as in most romantic relationships; while the romantic feelings are on an all time high and everything is rosy, when you’re dating, the rosiness fades and the daily grind sets in once you have committed and tied the not.
This is when it becomes about making the partnership operational and durable. It will be stress tested time and time again, and just as rows occur in a marriage – sometimes with greater frequency – there will be tons of times where things will get rocky, people will want to leave and just abandon everything.
Here it is your job to keep the perspective and get everybody aligned again. And again. And again.
For the greater good that brought you together in the first place.
There is no substitute for it. It is essentially what makes every sort of partnership – personal as well as professional – work.
Now, why bother thinking about all of this stuff?
Because it is super essential when you talk about the idea of partnering and basing your strategy on partnerships that you’re fully and realistically aware of what it entails.
If not you’re going to end up in the statistics of partnerships that fails, and your only consolation will be that it’s the typical outcome of what otherwise started as a grand initiative.
Instead of getting to that place you should ensure that you have what it takes to get partnerships right;
Make sure your internal stakeholders are aligned and signed on to the approach and what it demands – yes, DEMANDS – from them. Make them sign a piece of paper, if you have to. Just get it done.
On the external front be honest and transparent. Always and from the very start. To stay in the marriage analogy get the divorce papers in order before you sign up. Tell them all the ways things are going to end up bad and make sure they understand it. And then ask them to commit.
Only when you have these things in place, should you progress with pursuing all the true benefits and value that can be unlocked through a great, mutually committed and enduring partnership.
And they can be B.I.G.
But only then.