An example of good partnerships is when the rider and the horse work together.
Great businesses are founded on great partnerships
But great businesses can also be destroyed by bad partnerships. Most new businesses and non-profits, and some older ones, unfortunately, don’t give a lot of thought to the value of good partnerships.
The small-medium enterprises (SMEs) main concern is surviving, they are just too busy with the day-to-day issues and can’t see the trees for the leaves. But the sooner they can start focusing on what makes great partnerships, the better off they will be.
Successful business people use some of the following approaches to form the foundation of a great partnership. If you are missing any of them or if you merely need to improve in some areas, now is the time to start strengthening your organisation’s foundation.
Values must be congruent
Some people may argue with me, but I believe that having common values is the very foundation for the successful partnership. This does not mean that partnerships are clones of one another, quite the opposite. Each partnership must be able to make a significant contribution but you must agree on core values.
When there is a lack of congruent values you can expect trouble. Be mindful that many people’s true values can be masked, or you pay more attention to their credentials rather than their personality.
Trust is everything
The foundation of any good partnership is trust. You must be able to trust that your partners will do the right thing, and you trust that they will do what they say they are going to do.
Each partner must feel that they can be open with each other by admitting when they don’t know something or need help. Transparency is the key.
“Great partnerships are made, they don’t happen by chance. Take your time, put in the effort and your organisation will reap rewards beyond expectations”. Peter Sergeant
Trust your gut instincts. You must like the organisation and trust the people involved. Liking them and trusting them are subjective things, but I’ve learned to trust my gut feelings and my wife and son’s intuition. If anything doesn’t feel right, we don’t proceed.
Set your expectations correctly
Do your due diligence. I have found that the best partnerships have agreed upon objectives for the organisation and each of the partners at the beginning of the relationship and then keeps reviewing them regularly. Don’t try to make all the partners do the same things, that’s why you have partnerships.
Look to leverage each partner’s strengths. When partners have defined expectations and understanding of each other’s strengths, they develop a mutual respect for each other. As a partner meets or exceeds expectations, the feelings of respect for that partner only increase.
Naturally, underperforming partners lose the respect required for a partnership to flourish. Respecting your partner in key areas is indispensable in making a partnership work, and if they are not meeting your expectations take it as a warning signal and act sooner rather than later. If you don’t act problems will fester and could eventually destroy the whole organisation.
It can often be best to trust your first impressions, which are based on a lifetime of experience interacting with other people. However, I have found that it takes time, to really learn about another partnership and its dynamic, as we learn more about the other person.
Get your agreement written down
It doesn’t have to be a 20-page document. Trying to cover every possible eventuality is impossible. Use a simple document that you can use to start the partnerships, but check it with your legal people first.
The basics will be roles and responsibilities, the contributions to be made by each partner and how the successful spoils will be distributed and who will shoulder the risks involved.
Intellectual property to the parties used by the joint venture remains the property of the party introducing that intellectual property. Intellectual property developed by the joint venture remains the property of the joint ventures.
Any disputes arising between the parties shall be referred to the Institute of Arbitrators and Mediators for resolution, whose decision will be final.
Personality profiling can make an important contribution
Are you compatible? It’s important to know the personality type that you’re dealing with because a business partnership is like a marriage. There will be many ups and downs and you want to be sure the partners can cope with both success and failure.
It is always best to have a mix of temperaments and personality styles along with different and complementary skills. It’s not enough just to like someone, although it’s always a good starting point. You want to be able to rely on each other when the going gets tough.
Start on the same page, don’t expect it to just happen
Start by sitting down to share and clarify two things:
- One, core values. Discuss and check for alignment and allow both sides to develop trust by understanding the other’s key drivers.
- Share your business baggage to ensure you’re starting on the right foot. Also share your fears and desires for the partnership, so that they can be addressed in the planning phase, rather than at a point of conflict.
Together, these allow the creation of healthy, profitable partnerships that will go a long way towards withstanding the stresses of the environment in which you have to work together.
If one plus one equals two, it’s probably not the right partnership for you. One plus one should equal five. The outcomes must be more than the sum of its parts, otherwise, you’d be better off outsourcing.
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In hindsight, the biggest mistakes I’ve made with partnerships over the years have mostly boiled down to values and trust.
You too will make many mistakes across many issues because we are all human beings and circumstances change. But the biggest mistake of all is to try and do everything yourself and ignore the real benefits of good partnerships.
Another big mistake you can make is not sufficiently clarifying each partnership’s roles, boundaries, compensation, and exit strategies and then documenting them. Give careful consideration to creativity and innovation as an outcome of the partnership.
While it’s important to trust each other, it’s also important to ensure you are clearly on the same page before you start. People often have different understandings and interpretations if they are not put in writing.
Last but not least, you must ensure that you’re going to have fun. You’re entering a long-term commitment that is going to become an important part of your life. What’s the point if it isn’t going to be fun and if you aren’t having fun, the partnership won’t last. Spouses will see to that.
Don’t be afraid to fix the problems or walk away. Partnerships can be wonderful, but also can become your worst nightmare. Ensure that your vision and objectives are aligned and stay aligned and that any partnerships form part of your value chain.
If you are struggling with conversations, don’t procrastinate, take it as a warning sign that things are not what they should be. Either do something about it or walk away. It might pay you to engage a facilitator to help resolve issues. After all your family and your health well-being is on the line.