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Strategic alliances

Catapulting to a new level of success

By Lucy G. Rosen

Whether you are looking to share risk, resources or expertise, a strategic partner might be what your company needs to grow. Getting an edge on a competitive marketplace is usually the reason that people form strategic alliances. They are different from networking relationships, although most have come from effective networking.

Strategic alliances allow one company to tap into the strengths of another without the complications that accompany a merger or acquisition. They also are easy to start or get out of; you can form a strategic alliance for a few projects, or for years.

First steps

Where do you start? How do you grow your business? You may think this is too difficult and time consuming. However, the benefits are worth your efforts. One of the first steps you need to take in finding a good strategic alliance is research. When you need to attract businesspeople who share your values and work ethics, this is where your networking skills will be put to the test.

In addition to going through your lists of contacts, remember to continually expand your connections. Attend networking events. If you aren’t networking, it’s going to be tough to know your choices of partners beyond those with whom you already work. That’s why the first step in developing any strategic alliance is to understand what you are looking for and where to find it.

You’ve identified the perfect alliance and could work well together. Now it’s time to:

Stipulate goals and how to meet them

Be specific in identifying your strategic-alliance goals. Specify how you want your connection to grow, the number of hours you can commit to your project, the other commitments that may affect your business or financial situation and any fears you might have about this new relationship. You will be investing valuable time and money, so consider what might happen if this new alliance doesn’t work out.

Communicate everything

Many business alliances fail because incorrect assumptions are made. This happens from lack of or poor communication. Every detail regarding your alliance must be addressed to avoid misunderstandings and problems. Clarify everything. Don’t be afraid to state the obvious. What’s obvious to you may not be to them. Take notes. Confirm everything in writing as soon as possible, and get commitments from all parties involved.

Set specific deadlines

Set specific timelines and deadlines for what needs to be accomplished. Many people agree in principle to something but then find they can’t honor their agreements.

Exit gracefully 

When forming your alliance, make sure you stipulate exit clauses. It’s much more preferable to lose a partner early on than to lose your good name over time. Sometimes differing styles of management and leadership create disharmony. Or something that initially seems to be a small annoyance may become an irritation.

Be positive, but consider both sides of the coin

Before confirming, brainstorm on the best- and worst-case scenarios regarding this partnership. Think about the worst thing that can happen and what you’ll do. If an alliance is not based on a win-win goal, it has little chance of success. Without an agreed-upon approach, one partner is likely to become frustrated, reluctant and eventually resentful.

Celebrate success

People are so busy doing that they forget to stop and celebrate joyful moments. When there are budget constraints, we often think we can’t afford to celebrate, so we do nothing. In order to maintain motivation, it’s important to record milestones in your alliance. Your first payment from your first order is a shared achievement that deserves recognition. Celebrations of shared achievements build the relationship.

Starting the process

Of all the people you know, which two people would be perfect to start a strategic partnership with? You may have to do some research to find contact details, but it’s worth the effort.

We can find excuses every day to stay in our comfort zones and not approach others who can help us grow, yet if we have courage, we can overcome rejection and pursue our goals through strategic alliances. Remember, no one is an island! That holds true in our personal lives and business lives.

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