Effective Strategic Partnerships
(Download PDF Version)
By Dave Brock
about them. Executives speak
of partnerships and alliances as being core to their strategies.
Salespeople want to partner with their customers.
Developers seek alliances to acquire technology, knowledge, and
capabilities. Marketers seek
partnerships to open new markets and segments.
The merger-mania that is sweeping business is a form of partnering.
Other forms of partnerships are joint ventures, technology
alliances, supplier-chain alliances, outsourcing, and virtual companies. Countless consulting companies offer seminars on
partnering is one of the “buzzword bingo” favorites.
and marketers often use partnerships as an advanced form of selling, doing
no more than using the offer of a partnership as just another way of
“closing” the customer on the latest deal.
Partnerships in this context end up being “I want you to do
something for me,” not “how can we work together for mutual
seems to be the automatic answer to expanding sales, markets and growing a
company. Yet the majority of
partnerships and alliances fail to achieve their objectives.
Some data indicates that the failure rate of partnerships is as
high as 70%.
Others, while not declared failures, end up being paper
partnerships and not real collaborations that produce meaningful results.
alliances are critical elements to many business strategies.
No organization can do everything, so alliances become powerful
means of enriching the solutions and value we provide our customers,
improving our access to new markets and customers, and growing our own
knowledge, capabilities, and companies.
We can extend our core competencies through entering into
relationships with organizations that have capabilities that complement
relationships that produce meaningful results, for each party, requires
hard work and commitment. Based
on our experience, effective partnerships can be expressed in the
+( SV)2 = High Effectiveness
differently, effective partnerships are a combination of the following
Each partner bears a fair and appropriate share of the risk in the
alliance. No partner has a
disproportionate level of risk.
Each partner commits an
appropriate proportion of the resources, whether they are capital, people,
knowledge, technology or other.
Each partner shares appropriately in the rewards, the partners work
together to create mutual wins.
The partners share a common view of the objectives, results and outcomes
of the alliance. They share a
common vision of the importance of the relationship.
They share common value systems and complementary cultures.
This shared value system is the bedrock of the relationship,
providing the means, motivation and commitment to resolve problems with
the relationship and growing the relationship.
Without each of
these elements, the partnership is unbalanced and unaligned.
The more unbalanced the relationship, the higher the likelihood
that the partnership will fail to achieve its objectives. We all know that if the all the risk is borne by one partner,
that partner will feel that they are being taken advantage of.
Lack of alignment in the relationship sows the seeds of distrust
driving the alliance into a death spiral.
We work with a
lot of start-up companies. Often
we are regaled with stories of the problems of “Vulture Capitalists.” This arises in companies where the risk and reward is
not perceived as balanced between the Venture Capitalists and the
were engaged by a client to work with one of their strategic partners. In starting the project, we knew that both the project and
the partnership were in jeopardy. Rather
than coming from positions of commitment, trust and collaboration, each
party was approaching the project based on contractual agreements.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case, we see many
relationships implemented as the fulfillment of a contractual arrangement.
Relationships based on the enforcement of a contractual agreement
will never be effective partnerships.
Too often, we
see organizations focused on “What’s in it for me,” rather than
“What’s in it for us to work together.”
As a successful growing consulting firm, we see many other
consultants contacting us seeking to have a “strategic relationship.”
After years of painful experience, we find that most often these
are thinly disguised requests to refer business to them or to subcontract
them for our projects.
In many of the
partnering discussions we are involved in, we see people focusing on what
they want to get out of the
partnership, but little time on how the partnership will work and be
sustained. There is insufficient focus on:
Why are we doing this with each other?
Is this important to each of us and are we important to each other?
Are our expectations for the results produced by the
partnership aligned? Do we
have different or common goals?
Are we in this for a short-term very specific focus, or do
we want to have a long-term arrangement that evolves over time?
Is there real benefit and value to each of us in investing
in this relationship? Are we
sharing appropriately in the results of this alliance?
How does the partnership reinforce and build the business
strategy of each participant? What
happens if those strategies should change?
What commitments are we making assure each partner is
successful in this partnership?
How do we share information and knowledge with each other?
How do we grow and learn from the partnership?
How do we build trust in the relationship?
Do we have complementary competencies and capabilities that
enable us to build a beneficial relationship?
How do we manage problems that occur in the alliance?
How do we reconcile differences that occur in the relationship?
How do we manage changes in expectations or strategy over
the term of the relationship?
How do we build cooperation in the partnership?
What level of risk is each of us willing to take in
implementing the partnership? What
happens when the risks are too high?
Do our company cultures and values promote us working well
together, or are they so opposed that we will never collaborate
What happens when the original sponsors to the partnership
move on? Can we sustain the
partnership without them, or have we lost the motivation for being
What is our track record in implementing alliances?
What has worked, what has not?
What is our partner’s track record?
What changes in the environment or the relationship will
make the partnership unacceptable? What
changes are allowable?
In what areas do our partner and we compete?
How do we manage those overlaps?
At what point is the overlap intolerable?
How do we make the relationship sustainable?
experience, the process of partners working through these issues together
proves to be valuable in building the relationship and beginning to
establish trust between partners. Addressing
each point, discussing them, and coming to agreement builds the foundation
for ongoing success as well as establishing the plan for execution.
strategic alliances can produce important results for each party.
It is complex and tough to establish the relationship.
It takes time, cooperation and the commitment of all parties.
But addressing the issues outlined above and assuring balance in
the five critical elements of partnering:
Shared Resources, Shared Risk, Shared Rewards, Shared Vision, and
Shared Values, will help ensure that the partnership is successful in
achieving the goals desired by each party.
Partners In EXCELLENCE
provides many training
information on the
Dimensions Of EXCELLENCE
follow the link.
Partners In EXCELLENCE supports its clients in
achieving performance and organizational excellence. This is done through consulting, development and training
programs. In working with its
clients, Partners In EXCELLENCE seeks to establish partnerships through
the implementation of the five critical elements of strategic partnering. For more information on developing effective strategic
alliances, improving the effectiveness of your sales, marketing and
customer service organizations, or improving the results produced by your
organization, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org,
or by phone at (949)305-7146.
Dave Brock is the founder and president of
Partners In EXCELLENCE. He
can be reached at email@example.com.
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