Now that we’ve covered the types of successful partnerships, here are some ideas on creating and sustaining successful partnerships that are mutually beneficial.
Select the right partner
This goes without saying, but many businesses have jumped into a partnership with a big name or a brand with caché without really thinking it through. The decision to take on a strategic partner should be taken as seriously as taking on a business partner. You’ll want to do extensive research to make sure that your brands align in goals, corporate values, and more. Don’t get too far into the partnership process without really digging in and finding out exactly what you’re getting yourself, and your brand, into.
Don’t be afraid to trust your gut—even if everything looks golden on paper (or in spreadsheets) if something is off about one of their key players or you just don’t feel right about it, don’t do it. Or at the very least table the partnership until you are all in.
Be sure to consider the long-term as well. This isn’t a one-off deal, it’s a partnership. Which should mean it’s going to last a significant amount of time. Along with that, think about how your brand’s growth could change the terms of the partnership or vice versa.
Make a plan
Planning takes time, research, and effort. But don’t skimp. You’ll want to try to cover a lot of “what ifs” as you plan the partnership. This can save you a lot of heartache down the road if both parties are thorough in their planning.
Here are some things to plan for: objectives, benchmarks, expectations, communication and decision-making processes, financial obligations and compensation, intellectual property sharing, timelines, addressing employee buy-in, risks, how to end the partnership.
Put everything in writing
Now that you have a solid plan for, well, just about everything, you need to put it in writing. Not to get all doom and gloom on you, but you want to be protected. It’s not being negative to imagine the worst case scenario and planning for that. You can only control what you can control, and you definitely can’t control what happens to your partner in a strategic partnership.
However, if you’ve done your research and found a good partner, it’s very unlikely to come to that. But it will be much, much worse if both parties don’t have their obligations and agreement in writing and in a signed contract. Include every legal obligation along with anything else you’ve agreed to. Better to be too detailed than not detailed enough.
Partnerships only work when both parties are communicating. This can be difficult for strategic partners because you probably won’t see each other every day, or even be in the same city or time zone. Utilize great project management tools and set up regular meetings to keep everyone in the loop.
A lot of partnerships get hung up here on the decision-making process, but since you’ve already planned for that, you should be able to clear that hurdle. You can also keep things running smoothly by making introductions: the key players on your team should know the ones on theirs.