Successful Partnerships do not happen in a vacuum. Finding the right strategic partnership takes substantial upfront investment of your time and energy to identify, clarify, solidify and build. Find the opportunity, one that defines what you have to offer and how it aligns with the potential partner’s needs, then work towards a mutually beneficial partnership. Have a clear vision of what the benefits and challenges will be in forming this alliance.
- Understand your partner’s vision, mission and culture so you can leverage the capabilities of each party and achieve benefits greater than those of individual efforts. Recognize each others culture and differences.
- You may want to consider a short-term, high impact and relatively low cost project allowing you to work together before going into a longer term and more exposed form of partnership. Try it out as a test with your customers and get their feedback whether it adds value to their business. This gives you an opportunity to work together on a more informal basis and allows you to tweak areas that need improvement before launching the bigger project and solidifying a formal agreement.
- Clarify what the partnership will bring to each party and identify what work will be done specifically under this partnership. Coordination requires a commitment on both sides and a true understanding of what the wants are on both sides.
- Create a Shared Vision by identifying mutual goals and objectives. Determine key initiatives you want to achieve that will maximize the strengths and minimize the weaknesses. Whatever the deal structure, make sure you maintain control of your company. As a general rule, stay away from granting exclusivity to a partner. This has the potential of pushing you into a corner with no other way out.
- Negotiate a formal agreement that includes the scope of work and how to best communicate. Monitor and evaluate the work on an ongoing basis. Include a cross functional team and determine upfront who is accountable for what pieces. Take a pragmatic approach, look for the right fit, ascertain that your incentives are aligned and the cultures are similar enough.
- Be aware of things going awry and act quickly. Informality does not help here, so take the negotiating beyond social acquaintances. The focus and strategy can change for either party and the loss of key people involved in the negotiations may tip the boat. Be especially diligent around Intellectual Property such as patents, customer lists and trade secrets. Determine up front of what your rights are to access IP from the partner and what IP you are agreeing to share with them.
- Get your attorney to formalize your partnership agreement so that you have a good foundation as a springboard.
Forming partnerships is a growth strategy to be considered as it can get you further faster in the market place. Carefully weigh the pros and cons of this potential alliance and remember that the purpose in forming a partnership is quicker access to expertise or market share that could take time and resources to develop if done internally. Invest the time and energy upfront and you will end up with a successful partner.
Get more tips and ideas from our RudiTuesday Video on Strategic Partnerships.