Tag: partnerships

Earlier this year, you may remember that I wrote a post highlighting the potential pitfalls of collaborations, entitled ‘Don’t mention the ‘c’ word’.

In it, I covered six essential steps that businesses should take before committing to a partnership.

But what happens once you have made that commitment? Today I want to cover the next phase: how to achieve a best practice partnership or collaboration.

Who’s in charge?
Whether you’re establishing a partnership of two individuals or two larger companies, roles must be clearly defined. It is vital that program partners are equally involved, and that each brings something of value to the table. It is not enough for a partner to pay lip service as part of a PR exercise and add little or no value to the other party. For a partnership to work, all agencies must be true to their word, and act on their promises.

While there’s no legal requirement to have one, a written partnership agreement is essential. It should cover everything from how the business will be controlled, to how income or losses will be distributed to the partners. The ATO has useful resources on structuring a partnership.

Define your values
While shared skills are a non-essential – in fact, complementary but divergent skills can actually prove most advantageous – shared values are a different story. For partnerships to flourish, it is essential there is a clear, well defined code of values and standards that all partners hold themselves to. The Co-Founder of fast-growing online platform Food52, Merrill Stubbs, agrees. “It’s so important when curating a brand with such a strong point of view that we share a similar take on the world, strategically and aesthetically,” she says.

Values alignment is key, since values shape not only our professional identity, but also determine what conduct we deem to be good and bad as a business. Workplace mediator Elinor Robin says these values guide our actions in business. “When partners’ values align … they are more likely to make congruent decisions and remain united,” she reasons.

Know thy neighbour
Getting to know each other, and open communication, is essential to the success of any partnership. For partnerships to grow between groups of businesses or individuals, it is key that you understand each other’s value, so you are best placed to create benefits and opportunities together. This requires open communication and the resources on hand to share the uniqueness of each business within a group.

Ensuring you have the right conversations is part of this work. FutureSense President Jim Finkelstein advises that candid, quality conversations are key. “A true valued partner … will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear,” he says. “A true value-add partnership ids marked by freedom to share, discuss, opine, and have the tough discussions that lead to innovative growth.”

Review your performance
For any partnership – or any business, for that matter – to succeed, a consistent process of review is a non-negotiable. Whatever the structure of your review process, it’s important to ensure that regular time is set aside for this work, and that this work is undertaken within a framework, and is time limited. There should also be clearly defined goals and objectives that are assessed as part of this work.

Your review should identify what is and isn’t currently working and why, and should also examine how your businesses can work together more effectively, and set timeframes for making these changes. Many businesses with a partnership model call upon the services of an external coach, to ensure this work is impartial and outcome-focused.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T
In all dealings, respect is the name of the game. From the get go, ensure you collaborate with partners who share your values so you can easily establish a culture of mutual benefit and respect. Parties must be respectful to one another even when expressing differences of opinion, so opt for a partner with the same goals; someone who wants to grow and will support your growth.

Finally it’s worth noting that those looking to enter into more formal partnership relationships should definitely check out the ATO site for further advice.

Take these steps, and your business will be well placed to create collaborations that prove fruitful for all parties. Enjoy the ride!

‘Collaboration’ has long been a buzzword in the business world.

Companies recognise that remaining relevant requires not only internal collaboration and team work, but also collaboration in the form of partnerships with other organisations.

Defined as “the situation of two or more people working together to create or achieve the same thing”, collaboration makes good business sense.

Consider the success of fast fashion retailer H&M’s collaborations with luxury design houses such as Balmain and Versace, or Uber and Spotify’s value-add partnership that allows you to connect your Spotify account to your Uber car’s radio.

But with great reward often comes great risk. Collaboration can be seen as a smoking gun means to achieving greater brand awareness and financial rewards based on a partnership vision that focuses too heavily on the ‘what’ – the strategy – and not enough on the ‘how’ – the tactics, or fails to adequately recognise the risks.

In these cases, the results can be disappointing. Loss of autonomy, dilution of your brand, lost time and resources, or a negative impact on your brand’s reputation, are just some of the risks.

So today I’m challenging you not to mention the ‘c’ word without first taking these six steps to determine whether you or your business are really in a position to commit to a collaboration.

Do so and you’ll be well on the way to more successful partnership opportunities that yield better results for you and your partners.

  1. Time is of the essence

The first key question you should consider is whether you have the time and resources to nurture a collaboration opportunity. You should consider the potential drain on company resources, both in terms of the number of hours key staff would likely spend on such a partnership, and upfront financial costs. Remember that the drain on financial and company resources is often greater than expected.

  1. Identify your processes

Before entering into any external collaborations or partnerships, you should identify your processes for critiquing the value of your collaboration. Ask: what am I seeking to get out of the partnership first and foremost? Once you know this, you’ll be able to deduce how best to measure this  – whether it be greater brand awareness, a spike in sales of a particular product or service, or customer satisfaction levels.

  1. Leverage your strengths

When negotiating any partnership, be sure to know your strengths. Consider both your access to knowledge and people. For example, you may have a small team, but you could have expert specialised knowledge that is particularly valuable to a potential partner. Alternatively, you may have a broader organisational focus, but perhaps you have the people power to support this work and do more of the heavy-lifting. Knowing and leveraging your strengths before commencing negotiations with prospective partners will ensure you get a better deal for your business. Be prepared to ask yourself and your team the tough questions about what you bring to the table as an organisation.

  1. Mind the gap

Also be aware of your skill gaps – and ensure you partner with an organisation that doesn’t have the same gaps as you. Consider whether you have complementary skill-sets, and creative ways to bridge any skill gaps.

  1. Better off alone?

Finally, assess the ideas and opportunities that collaborations offer and weigh these up against the potential challenges. Ask yourself: am I really better off collaborating, or could I/we be better off alone? Consider what you could do with the resources required for your collaboration if you decide not to go ahead. Which option is more favourable from a commercial perspective? And don’t forget to consider brand reputation and PR risks. LEGO’s collaboration with Shell is one example of a company failing to recognise the PR risk of such an association, as attitudes to Shell’s environmental practices have shifted over time.

  1. Trust is a must

Finally, weigh up the ‘co-opetition’. The term, utilised to describe collaborations with organisations that would often be considered your natural competitors, sums up the need for trust. In order for partnerships to be truly successful, all parties need to be willing to share ideas and insights. At the same time, protecting your IP and business plans is essential to mitigate unnecessary risk.

So, be sure to exercise consideration and caution when using the ‘c’ word. While collaborations aren’t for everyone, successful partnerships can offer immense value to all parties.

I’m interested in your thoughts… Do you have a favourite company collaboration? And are there any other considerations you would weigh up before using the ‘c’ word?