How can entrepreneurs avoid stressful partnerships?

How can entrepreneurs avoid stressful partnerships?How can entrepreneurs avoid stressful partnerships?

I got several notes after last week’s blog saying it just can’t be that easy to find your best partners. We’ve had a lot of great partnerships, but we’ve also had many unsuccessful partnerships. Why do you think most businesses have such a hard time creating extraordinary partnerships?

There are three challenges organizations face when they develop great partnerships. I’ll share them today to see if they help you identify why your partnerships have failed in the past. Then next week I’ll share some ideas that will help you not only in developing stronger partnerships but can also be applied to strategic acquisitions.

The first reason partnerships fail is because the leadership teams from both organizations don’t have the same expectations from the partnership. Depending on the alliance, it is critical that the new partnership has a similar vision of what success means for the partnership. Both organizations also must be willing to invest time to get to better understanding of each other before going all in on the partnership.

The second reason partnerships fail is that too many partnership are built on the assumption that it’s a partnership of equals. Sure we want to treat the other person with respect and trust, but we should be practical about what both parties bring to the partnership. One of strategies I try to use is having a strategy session with the partners to help both parties understand the other’s perspective on what they do well.

A great way of doing this is having each team prepare the other’s presentation. They share each other’s capabilities and challenges at the beginning of the relationship, not when things begin to change as time goes by. Setting up a common framework can help each partner better understand how to get the other party engaged.

The third reason partnerships fail is their cultures are too inflexible to allow for the best results from the partnership. Successful organizations have strong cultures. It’s very hard for a successful organization to change their culture simply because their partner has a different one. When cultures don’t match, it’s almost like each organization is speaking a different language. This can become very frustrating, especially when both organizations may not be committed completely to working together.

The fourth reason partnerships fail is because the partners don’t communicate on a regular basis. The only communication that might occur between partners occur is when there is a problem.  Who wants to return a call when every time you speak with someone it’s about a problem? If you’re in a business with many partners, it’s easy to avoid the partners who always bring you problems.

Finally, the last reason partnerships fail is because the timeframe for success is unrealistic.  It’s critical to be realistic when setting timeframes around the partnership’s success. How quickly do you expect your partnership to generate results?  Are you assuming best case scenarios, or do you have contingency plans if one or the other partner organizations has issues?

Creating a successful partnership requires time, effort, and communication.  It’s more than just saying “yes,” when someone approaches your business for a partnership arrangement.  Take the time to create your partnership plan, and you, too can find your best partners more often than you might believe.

See you next week.

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