We all believe that having a healthy strategic partnership is a great thing but many times we rush into partnership without asking some really important questions first.
I had an early experience in “partnership building” while in college. I remember clearly the excitement I felt when I met an organization that was just as eager as our organization to impact people living in Mexico. I went to meet with them face to face, because I knew the value of due diligence! After seeing their work, hearing their vision and dreaming about what we could do together, we forged a partnership and agreed to work together on a couple of initiatives. I soon learned that the word “partner” can be defined in many different ways. The partnership didn’t work. They wanted me to do some things for them that I just couldn’t do. They assumed that I would bring resources and other partners to the table. I soon learned that what they expected and what I had hoped for were completely different. The partnership never really moved forward, and I felt like a failure.
I believe we had the right intentions, but we didn’t communicate clearly because we were so excited to find someone else with similar passion that we rushed into partnership without really defining it.
Here are some questions to ask before you RUSH into partnership?
• How do we define success? What does success or impact look like?
We all define success differently. It’s not just a measurement of people, resources or impact. There are lot’s of ways to measure this. Be sure that you’re speaking the same language.
• Who is the point person assigned to the partnership?
Every successful partnership has 2 clearly defined point people. Who are they? What are their parameters when it comes to making decisions? Are they the people that initiated the partnership or where they handed the partnership?
• How long will we be in partnership?
Every partnership needs to have a goal. Open ended partnerships tend to fizzle out. Clarify and evaluate by creating some timely markers in your relationship, especially at the beginning as you get to know each other.
• How do we celebrate our partnership and end our partnership?
Celebrate the things you learn together along the way, and determine an exit strategy when it’s time. Clarify what it looks like to end a partnership and communicate that to both organizations and the public.
Healthy partnerships take time.
– Time to build the relationship
– Time to rally around trust and vision
– Time to learn about each other and from each other
– Time to make some mistakes and recover from them
– Time to confirm that the partnership is really a strategic alliance that will produce impacting results.
Don’t rush into partnership. When you take you time, you build something that will last.
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