Like peanut butter and jelly, the future of small business growth lies in developing meaningful partnerships. And, with the right type of planning, “teaming up” can prove to be a match made in heaven.
As with any good relationship, victory begins with the quest for self-discovery and awareness. It’s essential to ask yourself:
- What is our intended purpose for developing an alliance?
- What do we expect to gain from the association?
- What assets do we bring to the partnership?
- How does an alliance fit into our business plan?
Once you’ve determined that an alliance would fit into your overall strategy, the next step is to identify the companies that would be a potential match. Conducting extensive research to find the perfect “mate” will be crucial to your success. Inquiries to make include:
- What companies reach the market that we currently serve?
- What businesses make products or provide services that relate to our business?
- What ventures have a vision and values that are similar to ours?
- What companies have expressed an interest in collaborating with us?
- What enterprises have similar standards, work ethic, and commitment to excellence that we have?
Once you completed your homework, you’re ready to begin building a partnership that creates a win-win for all parties involved (owners and employees, alike). The path to successful alliances does not have to be littered with misunderstandings and disagreements. Honest and open communications, up front, can clear away any potential barriers to performance. Areas to discuss include:
- Purpose and vision – why are we doing what we’re doing?
- Performance targets – what objectives and goals reflect what both parties expect to gain from the alliance? Are they realistic based on the amount of resources both parties are willing to put forth? What needs to be achieved by when?
- Working agreements what responsibilities is each business willing to take on? What are the norms of acceptable behavior? How can we best work together to achieve our goals?
- Problem solving how will we utilize the talent of both companies to solve problems?
- Decision-making – what process will be used to make decisions? In the event of an inability to arrive at a mutually beneficial decision, who will be the final influence?
- Meeting effectiveness – How will we use meetings to enhance the power of the alliance? How frequently will we meet? What information will be shared?
- Managing differences – What is our plan for resolving conflict?
There are no right or wrong answers. You must create the path that fits your new entity best. Whatever your alliance strategy, treat your new enterprise with care. It takes a lot less effort to kill a new effort than it does to nourish it. Nurture it all you can.