Six Elements Of A Successful Strategic Partnership

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Emily B. Rose, SVP, Broker & Partnership Sales of LegalShield and IDShield, empowering people in the evolving legal and privacy landscape.

It’s a new year, and for many business development leaders, now is the time to start opening doors to strategic partnerships. Creating a strong partnership with another organization can be mutually beneficial, leading to higher revenue, new business opportunities and innovative ideas for both partners.

But not all partnerships thrive. An analysis of strategic alliances in the U.S., Western Europe and Japan found that less than 40% of partnerships were still active after four years and only 15% after 10 years. Two-thirds of the alliances experienced serious difficulties in their first two years.

Successful partnerships require trust, communication and a shared purpose. According to data from a McKinsey survey of business development professionals, the two factors that contributed most to partnership success were “alignment on parent and partnership objectives” and “effective internal communication and trust.”

I’ve developed an acronym that highlights the six factors I believe are crucial to building successful partnerships and overcoming potential hurdles: GROWTH. It stands for:

  1. Goals and objectives
  2. Research partners
  3. Open, honest and regular communication
  4. Willing, interested and invested parties
  5. Trust and get to know your partners
  6. Have a joint project plan and roadmap

1. Goals And Objectives

Define your company’s goals and objectives before you reach out to potential partners. A key to success is to be crystal clear and aligned on what you want to achieve from a business standpoint. Once you have the full support of your leadership and other key stakeholders, you can identify like-minded partners to help reach your goals and objectives. This purpose will be your North Star as you research organizations to partner with.

2. Research Partners

A common misstep many companies make is not doing enough research on prospective partners. To avoid hurdles down the road, invest time in thoroughly researching organizations to see if they are the ideal partners for your company. How does their expertise complement your own? How can they help your company achieve your overarching strategic goals? What do they hope to accomplish with this partnership, and how can you support their objectives? Detailed research will enable your team to build a strong foundation and be laser-focused on reaching out to the right potential partners.

Keep an open mind during the research phase. At first blush, a new partnership might not seem like it’s the right fit, but as you dig deeper, you may find surprising opportunities for collaboration. On the flip side, you may be excited about a potential partner, only to discover that your strategies are not aligned, making the partnership not the right fit for right now.But don’t close that door forever. You can still learn a lot from the relationships you build, and you may have a chance to work together in the future.

3. Open, Honest And Regular Communication

As with any relationship, good communication is essential in strategic partnerships. A successful partnership is one in which both parties feel comfortable and confident sharing the good and not-so-good updates with each other.

Even if it’s a small check-in, keep a standing date on the calendar to touch base. If there are budget alterations, leadership or team changes or any other developments in your company that may impact the partnership or goals, it’s important to be upfront with your partner. Foster a culture of candor and transparency so you can both manage resources and adjust expectations appropriately.

4. Willing, Interested And Invested Parties

If you have the right partner, both parties will be equally invested and active in the success of the partnership. Look for a partner that is ready and willing to give their all to your shared endeavors. How proactive are they in communicating progress reports? Do you feel like both teams are contributing equally to projects and following through on commitments? A good partner will want to make time to meet, provide updates and see the partnership through, even during bumpy times.

5. Trust And Get To Know Your Partners

To have a successful partnership, you must like and respect each other. When you form an authentic relationship built on mutual regard, you can trust one another to openly share thoughts, whether you are brainstorming ideas or discussing challenges.

Take time to get to know your partners well. This closeness will allow you to develop a healthy partnership, where no one is pushing or pulling too much. When there’s bad news to deliver—for example, a project timeline is delayed—it’s easier to have those tough conversations when you’ve taken the time to connect with your partners and cultivate a professional relationship.

6. Have A Joint Project Plan And Roadmap

To achieve your common goals, you and your partner need to agree on a clear roadmap and metrics around what that success looks like. Both parties have to know and adhere to timelines, budgets and next steps. You want to be singing from the same songbook. Clear and constant communication will ensure that you are on track to meet deadlines and everyone is aware of any possible hiccups or alterations.

It will also give you clarity on when to bring in additional people or departments to assist on a project. For example, if IT is helping to build programming that will take six months to complete, you, your teams and your partners should have detailed information about this and have it factored into the roadmap.

Every partnership is different, but I believe all successful alliances share these common characteristics. By keeping GROWTH at the center of your partnership planning process, you are far more likely to achieve your goals and avoid potential obstacles that cost your company time, money and resources.


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