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What keeps a great partnership going?

David Sherry
3 min read
What keeps a great partnership going?

This week both clients of mine and I are all speaking with potential partners for their businesses.

These can be loose affiliate-type partnerships or deeper, long-lasting partner decisions. Partnerships are a bit like new romantic relationships, and many of them don't work out in the long run.

I see plenty of business "break-ups", as well as partnerships wherein one or both, had expectations about the other that weren't 'fulfilled'.

So I wanted to share some ideas about putting together partnerships, and maybe more importantly keeping them going.

1. Give more than you get
Lots of people think about 50/50 partnerships, where the benefits are "equal."

It sounds good, right? But consider instead that the best partnerships always make it feel like you are getting more than you ever hoped for out of it.

I prefer partnerships where things are structured so that I'm always giving more than I'm receiving. This is the basis for making a good offer. This means charging less than the value I provide and giving more than is expected at a baseline.

This doesn't mean I don't think about what's in it for me, it's just that I always try and weigh the partnership/offer to benefit them more.

Define the value upfront, and skew the deal towards them.

2. Think on a 5-10 year horizon.
The best relationships compound. Just like in dating, it pays to find someone who you can learn and grow with over the long term. Thinking about your partners in the lens of the long game always pays in making the right decision.

Beyond that, it helps take the point of view, "I want to work with you in some capacity, regardless of it's form, for a very long time."

It takes the pressure off of any specific engagement terms and into broader long-standing relationships.

3. Have a plan for quitting in 5 weeks, or 5 months.
Knowing your exit ahead of time can help soften the blow to the end of a partnership. You can and should expect that it might not work, and not be surprised if it doesn't.

How can you avoid surprise? Talk about it often, and give opportunities for exiting the relationship if desired.

It's better to expect this scenario and still be happy you had the brief partnership than to not expect it and be blindsided.

Sometimes relationships are short, but that doesn't mean we didn't learn something in the process.

4. Check in outside of work, too.
The best partners are relationships beyond the work itself. This means you catch up and take in consideration the whole person beyond your specific partnership. You take the time to plan time to talk about things that aren't just the business or product.

You also are open to checking in on the partnership itself.

You ask "How is this going for you?" "What can I do better?" And "Are you still happy?"

5. Reset, or creatively upgrade your process

Lots of times partners who are having difficulty seeing eye to eye have lost a bit of their dynamic for working together through shared processes that aren't working.
Lots of hiding, issues in communication, and sideways energy between partners can come up in poor processes. Simple is always better, this goes for the structure of your deal, what's being delivered by each party, etc.

When people hide in complexity, you free things up with simplicity and clarity as a reset to your process.

I also can't tell you how many times difficulties with communication were cleared up with in-person time if previously remote.

I'm curious, what do you think about putting together long-lasting partnerships? Let me know, or let me know where you're stuck.

have an awesome day,

xx David