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The Power of Partnering ~ 5 Key Questions to Ask When Evaluating Cross-Organisational Relationships

Many entrepreneurs feel a sense of isolation in their endeavours.  Mindful partnering can help alleviate this while building competencies, addressing weaknesses, and accelerating success.  But poor partnering can also derail a small business.  Here are five key things to consider prior to partnering outside of your company.

As we wind down our summer Western swing and head for home, I’d like to share some thoughts on successful partnering.  The intention of our trip, which has taken us north through Wisconsin, west to Missoula, and back south through Denver, has been to invest in strategic relationships.  Relationships that contribute to our flourishing, preferential advantage in our marketplace.

In today’s noisy world, authentic relationships are more important than ever.  Networking, and in particular, social networking, is only valuable if the connections it creates is serving your strategic relationship pipeline.  Why?  Connecting is cognitive.  Co-creating authentic relationship requires engagement on a deeper, more emotional level.

The research from Applied Behavioral Economics illustrates the critical nature of this depth of engagement.  Seventy percent of economic decision making is emotionally-driven, with the remaining 30% cognitively-driven.  In addition, research published in the Harvard Business Review demonstrates companies that engage both their associates and their customers on an emotional level enjoy a 240% improvement in financial performance (if you’re interested in the research, drop me an email and I’ll gladly send it along).

Our trip has been remarkably successful, expanding our capabilities in a variety of strategic areas.  But this wasn’t our first trip down partnering lane…and not all of our attempts to build business relationships have born fruit.  Here are five key questions to ask yourself as you contemplate partnering with another organization…hopefully these will save you time, money, and accelerate your success!

1.)  Is intention in alignment?  This is the first, most critical element for success in partnering, and it isn’t always obvious on the surface.  The key question to ask is “do we share a similar mission and/or purpose?”  How organizations function is greatly influenced by leaderships’ values, beliefs, and vision.  Organizational culture must be in alignment for cross-functionality to work across organizational boundaries.  Keep in mind, things can change over time, too.  What appears to be a great partnering opportunity today may evaporate tomorrow.

2.)  Is the relationship accretive?  The term accretive refers to the growing together of separate parts to create a whole of greater value.  Put simply, it means 1 + 1 = 3.  Does the bringing together of the separate, organizational key competencies create a multiplier effect in value creation?  Does partnering contribute to the strategic advantage of both organizations in ways they could not execute themselves?  If not, you may want to reconsider the partnership.

3.)  Are you meeting halfway?  Think about any important relationship you have in your life and you’ll know the importance of this question.  Authentic relationships are truly co-creative relationships.  Everyone must have a skin in the game for things to coalesce.

4.)  Are you ready for one another?  Entrepreneurs and businesses evolve over time.  The motivational factors that drive engagement need to be moving at a similar pace as well as in a similar direction.  If not, one partner will lag behind the other and frustration can lead to friction.

5.)  Are expectations explicit and understood?  Most importantly, make sure each party’s expectations are understood at the outset.  Even the most strategic of partnerships can rapidly unwind through miscommunication and unanticipated surprises.  Hammering out the details upfront, examining various contingencies, and ensuring you’re both on the same page at the outset can save enormous pain down the road.

About Dave Solomon

Dave Solomon is a serial entrepreneur influenced by Terry Murray, one of the greatest business mentors of 21 century. This Blog is an initiative to recollect the lessons of Mr. Murray and help aspiring entrepreneurs become transformational entrepreneurs

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