Need: Conduct a strategic analysis of your operations
to determine if you want to break into a new market, increase
sales, develop new products/services or save on operating costs.
Understand clearly where you are and where you want to go so
that you can find the partners that best complement you. You
need to understand how the alliance fits into your business
plan, so be clear with yourself why you're entering into it
and what you expect to gain.
Evaluate Potential Partners:
Even when you get a referral from a trusted advisor, researching
a prospective partner is crucial. You must feel comfortable
with the strategies and tactics of any organization you’re
considering an alliance with. Find out about the organization’s
key strengths, market position and – if possible –
financial status. Once you’ve narrowed the field on paper,
the detailed analysis begins. It's critical that you look objectively
at management styles, ethics and values, and identity where
potential clashes could occur. Key questions to ask:
- How are decisions made?
- How controlling is management of its staff?
- At what pace do staff work?
- How aggressive or bureaucratic is the organization?
Answering these questions honestly leads to a better match.
Some organizations, for instance, are known for their tight
rein on employees or the long hours they keep; if your work
style isn't similar to theirs, you could be headed for problems.
It's also smart to get references from people who have worked
with your potential strategic partner.
||Establish Joint Objective and Goals:
Developing key objectives and goals that reflect what both parties
expect to gain is critical. Be sure that expectations are realistic
in light of the resources both parties are willing to put forth,
and make adjustments as needed. Nothing sours an alliance faster
than the notion that one party is giving everything while the
other is getting a free ride. Strategic alliances have to foster
an environment in which both parties gain something; otherwise,
they're not partnerships.
||Define Roles and Responsibilities:
Assess each organization’s strengths, and define responsibilities
accordingly – especially in the area of management. Many
alliances fail because of poor management relationships, so document
clearly what's expected. Be specific: decide how many people will
be involved in the alliance from each organization and what their
specific roles will be. Each party has to dedicate resources to
the relationship, and both parties need someone within their organization
who will champion the cause.
Also consider all the accounting, tax and legal ramifications
of the alliance. Form a game plan for how the alliance will
operate from the beginning to the end of the relationship.
||Develop a Good Communications Process:
Clear communication is key to creating an enduring partnership.
Disappointments and misunderstandings can be avoided by establishing
an effective process for working with your partner. The relationship
must be developed to the point where both parties can be honest
when evaluating progress and offering recommendations for improvement
– both of which should be done on a regular basis. For example:
you might want to exchange weekly sales reports or monthly status
||Develop Conflict-Resolution Systems:
An alliance is rarely a match made in heaven. Misunderstandings,
compromises and disagreements are natural. When they arise, resolve
them as quickly as possible. It's best to meet in neutral territory
where both parties can speak openly and honestly. Then, focus
on creating solutions rather than placing blame. Be prepared for
the possible break-up of the relationship by discussing up front
how you will end the relationship, should that be necessary.
||Build on Trust: Strategic
alliances are built on trust, dedication and mutual interests.
They require the respect and interaction of people in each organization.
And, like good personal relationships, they require effort to
build. Both organizations must deliver on their promises –
meet deadlines, produce quality products/services and meet their
Each party has to feel that he or she is giving something and
getting something in return. If you haven't taken the time to
think through how both sides will benefit, don't pursue an alliance
at this time.
The alliance needs to assume a position of status and importance;
both partners must be willing to nurture and care for it. This
means that the top people in both organizations must be supportive.
The point of any strategic alliance should be to make an impact,
and you can't do that without active engagement at the top.
It also means giving extra effort to making the venture work,
even if that means a willingness to go beyond contractual obligations.
Committed partners dedicate resources and effort and face risks
to make the venture work.
||Be Patient: Strategic
alliances take time to develop and maintain. When you're starting
out, don't make judgments about potential partners if they seem
reluctant – especially nonprofits, which are besieged with
requests. Figure out how to stand out from the crowd.
||Listen: Be all ears. Listen
to your potential partners. What they tell you will not only give
you clues to their needs but may influence your thinking in ways
you've never even imagined.