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.
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!