This week has been a blur of promotions for the Lance Armstrong interview and I’ve begun to wonder, how do you protect the image of your company when your company is you? There is an old adage that says ‘you are the company you keep’, but in this increasingly global marketplace how realistic is that? Is it reasonable to assume we can manage all of our partnerships and alliances to create a consistent image?
We meet people every day in business, some of them are colorful and fun and we would love to do business with them. The boring guy at the networking event gets his card stuck in our bag and the card goes to business card purgatory. While fun guy seems to us like the perfect partner. The problem with perception is that is very rarely grounded in fact. Good partnerships are based on strategy, so ask yourself the right questions.
- ‘Do they understand our core capabilities and how do they complement them?’
- ‘Are we growing in similar ways or are they in a market I need to be in, but can’t get into?’
- ‘How do their customers and their staff feel about them’
- ‘What’s their strategy for the next five years, where are they trying to go?’
It’s all great until it isn’t and then many small businesses start asking the questions they should have asked at the beginning. Partnerships are a wonderful way to increase your market presence, engage a customer base that would have otherwise been unreachable and to strategically grow but what happens when it goes wrong? Do you have a plan? If not, you should because the only thing constant is change.
Partnerships are like marriages and companies outgrow each other, grow apart and sometimes just end up being a bad match. When you pick a partner based on strategy and core values it’s a lot easier to push the odds of success in your favor. So before you begin a partnership, how about you date the company and see if it’s a fit. Go to lunch, have a coffee and have a conversation about expectations and see if it’s still love.
If it’s a match let’s not elope just yet, but now that you know the partnership is compatible put all of your cards on the table. You need to be clear about what you want from the partnership and you need to be clear about what happens next if the partnership isn’t all you hoped it would be. I feel a little like Dear Abby here, but most relationships crumble because there is a failure to communicate and business partnerships are no exception. So talk, engage, challenge and create partnerships that help you grow and thrive.