Networking and finding good partners are keys to accomplishing your goals, business or otherwise.
Want exposure for your products? You need media partnerships. Want to get more leads to an event? Affiliate partnerships? Overseas expansion? International partnerships?
Callum Laing, partner in the private equity firm Unity-Group and co-author of the upcoming book “Agglomerate – From Idea to IPO in 12 months”, offers 5 common mistakes to avoid when building a partnership, and the one thing you should always do to ensure success.
Mistakes that Can Prevent Successful Partnerships
1. Focusing On One (Or Only a Few) Potential Partners
How often have you had a deal fall through when you really needed it to work? Take it as an extension of Murphy’s Law. If you feel yourself having any sense of desperation for a deal to work out, it is time to start calling on other partners.
Most deals will not deliver exactly what you hope for, so take the pressure off any one deal by having multiple backups. You’ll feel more at ease, and less likely to enter into hasty a partnership that may prove disastrous later on.
2. Failing to Explore Other Collaboration Opportunities
Don’t be afraid to have fun with your partners and explore multiple avenues of collaboration. Are there different ways you can work together? What would happen if you added a third partner or a fourth?
What if you added more products or created a separate business to maximize this opportunity? Sticking to a plan is good, but missing other vital collaborative opportunities may hinder your partnership from thriving. Always keep your eyes open for opportunities.
3. Making Giant Leaps
Big thinking is great, but always set up something small that you can start doing right now to get started. It doesn’t matter how small it is — a tweet announcing you’re planning to work with a certain partner, a timeline of actions, even a lunch date to discuss ideas.
Just get something nailed down. You’ll find that once you actually get going, you can more easily build on the momentum. Great partnerships are built one step at a time.
4. Not Making Things Easier
Picture a two-by-two matrix with ‘High Value and Easy to Implement’ in one corner and ‘Low Value and Hard to Execute’ in the other. In an ideal world, every partnership would be high value to you and easy to execute.
If it is low value and hard to execute, chances are you either you or your potential partner will eventually walk away. Have some ‘Easy to Implement’ partnership options that you can pull out during any conversation to move things forward.
Do you have a free gift you can make available? Some research you can share? A database that you can promote to your partners? Making it super easy for people to work with you is the key to building long-term relationships and moving up the value ladder to the game-changing deals.
5. Failing to Communicate
Always ensure you are communicating more than you think is necessary. The most common mistake people make is when stuff stops working as they’d hoped is going into hiding. Don’t be that person who suddenly goes silent and leaves a partner hanging.
Whether you’re doing well or have hit a speed bump, constant communication is the key to moving forward in any partnership. It’s not just the right thing to do, it also helps you build a better reputation.
The One Thing You Should Always Do
… is assume best intent.
Whatever challenges and opportunities arise, there is usually a strategic partnership that can help you sort things out and move forward. Look at the trajectory of any successful business and you will find points where a strategic partnership has propelled the business to the next level.
Yet every partnership is different, and even the best, most logical partnerships can go awry. The challenge is that the person you are partnering with has a whole host of other priorities in their life that you aren’t aware of. Market conditions change, personal circumstances are always in flux. You can safely assume that even if their goals currently align with yours, they probably won’t do so forever.
Assuming best intent acknowledges that we live in complex times. Things will come up, neither party will have full visibility of what the other side is doing, things move fast and we don’t always have time to communicate everything in as much detail as we should. Or understand it even if it is communicated.
The intent of any partnership is always that both parties will benefit more with the alliance than without. When things come up in your partnerships, as they invariably will, assuming best intent provides the best possible platform for starting the conversation, moving forward, and if necessary, amicably parting ways.
Not every partnership will survive and not every party will always have best intentions. However, if your default assumption is a mistrustful one, then your partnerships will surely fail to live up to its potential.
Do yourself a favor. Assume that your partners have the best of intentions. Assume that they want this partnership to work as much as you do. I know it’s hard to do, but a little bit of trust can go a long way.
Partners Photo via Shutterstock
You may get turned down. But if you assume the best, it shows confidence instead of desperation and that is always attractive.