Entrepreneurial Success: Making Partnerships Work (II)
OSo far, we have defined the concept of business collaboration and highlighted its advantages, elements and philosophy. Today, we’re going to wrap up the partnership circles we introduced last week and discuss some principles and practices of a successful business partnership.
Partnership circles: Like the human individual, a business entity belongs to several relational circles. Typically, there would be investors, creditors, suppliers, employees, customers, regulators, etc. Your particular situation and circumstances as well as your type of business will determine which relationships carry what weight. Whatever the type and weight of each relationship, the challenge of business collaboration is to create, maintain and develop fruitful and mutually rewarding partnerships.
Types of Collaborations: Broadly speaking, there are two types of collaborations; internal and external. Internal collaborations occur when individuals and groups within the same business organization come together for day-to-day operations as well as long-term projects. It is essentially teamwork that we expect to see at a minimum in organizations. External collaborations refer to the various forms of business partnerships aimed at achieving certain objectives between two or more business organizations. These include ecosystems, portfolio, alliance, coopetition, network, etc.
Business Collaboration Practices: Last week, we discussed partnering philosophies of well-being, long-term thinking, and creating opportunity for partners. These should always be the basis of your thoughts and actions. They are the basis of sound professional collaborative practices, such as:
• Identify key relationships: Your first challenge is to identify the key people and organizations you will need to partner with. People can, for example, be wealthy people who can provide equity, or people in high positions in society who can be mentors or help open doors for you. There might also be organizations you need to build healthy and mutually rewarding partnerships with. As mentioned, these can be your corporate clients, suppliers, creditors, regulators, etc.
Obviously, organizations are made up of individuals. Thus, the key elements in the development of partnerships with organizations are the people who lead the organizations or who have an influence on them. These can be very junior employees, mid-level employees, senior employees, external managers, etc. Similarly, you need to identify both those who are influential right now and those who will grow in the future to be influential. Develop good relationships with everyone.
• Engage: As you identify the individuals and organizations you will need to partner with now or who will be “useful” in the future, begin to engage positively with them. As we always mention, however, you should not only be obsessed with your interests, but you should also look out for the interests of the collaborating partner. The moment you get rid of your zero-sum mindset and start looking at things and problems from the perspective of the partner(s), it will become easy to come up with ideas and solutions that will propel all partners forward. ‘before.
• Add value: Among the elements of the business partnership, we mentioned that you must be able to put resources on the table. But beyond the “resources” you can commit, your partner’s ultimate goal is for you to add value to the relationship. Think about it, the people we care about the most are the ones who add value to our lives. We have run to them in good times and bad. It is the basis of collaborative success, whether for individuals or organizations.
Think carefully and deliberately about exactly what value you can add to each collaborative attempt. Obviously, every relationship is different and therefore the demands, expectations and efforts will also be different.
• Be reliable: Trust is one of the pillars on which all successful partnerships are built. Never commit to what you will not be able to deliver and you must always deliver what you commit to.
Recently, I was involved in negotiations between an organization and a potential client. At one point, the organization offered to provide certain resources to the client “free of charge”. Unfortunately, when the finances were agreed, the actual cost of the “free” resources amounted to a higher than expected percentage of the net profit to be made.
While there are times when you can legitimately ask for renegotiations, this was not the case. It was an error in the conduct of the negotiations by the organization. Therefore, I insisted that the organization must fulfill this condition without even raising it with the client, because addressing the issue will not only lead to questions about its technical competence, but also about its integrity. I advised that they should learn from the mistake and, in fact, be grateful that they were still making decent money.
To be reliable is to be technically competent, trustworthy, looking out for mutual interests and thinking long term.
• Institutionalization: Of course, some relationships are best handled by senior executives. However, it is not enough that only a few senior executives are recruited into the collaborative effort. Mid-level staff and even junior officers should be sufficiently trained to appreciate the organization’s philosophy and collaborative practices. Often, as we see, junior operators and mid-level personnel can help or damage the reputation of organizations with their acts of omission and/or commission. Such internal collaborations should engender a culture within the organization. It is also applicable externally by partner organizations jointly training their staff, deploying technologies to improve their collaboration, etc.
Sound collaborative practices will help the entrepreneur and their business immensely. They must be deliberate, well thought out, practical, far-sighted and grounded within an organization. Next week we will discuss creativity and innovation.