Tag Archive for: Strategic alliances

Getting along

In Bed With the Enemy: How to Successfully Partner With Your Competition (1318 Words)

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on partnering with competitorsStrategic alliances are today commonplace among large corporations. The advantages allow these companies to successfully compete in the global marketplace. Powerful synergies are the outcropping of these alliances. Smaller companies can derive the same advantages through alliance relationships. In this article, I will focus on what I call Synergistic Partnering Alliances where competitors can realize great value by building relationships of integrity with one another.

To begin, you must search for the perfect mate. How do you find competitors with whom who can successfully become a synergistic alliance partner? First, talk to your suppliers. They already have a great deal of experience with your competitors. They also have a good handle on the integrity or lack there of. Also, your trade associations can be quite helpful. The board members and staffers are usually knowledgeable about the players in your industry. Other possibilities are your local chambers of commerce and the better business bureau.

The key is to find a partner with the same core values as you. This will make life together better. Ask IBM and Apple why their alliance did not work out. If you can find anyone that will tell the truth, they will most likely blame the fact that the cultures of the two companies were too different. A significant point in selecting a partner is to keep in mind that your alliance will only be as strong as its weakest link. What I mean to say is that you want a winner, not a looser on your team. Do not build an alliance with a needy person or organization, especially if they/it that cannot make it on their own. Trust me—you will regret it if you do.

Next, you must court your future alliance partner to start building a relationship. Assisting your future synergistic alliance partner to have an emotional ownership in the partnering paradigm will be your primary mission at this point. Intellectually, your partner can see and realize the benefits of a synergistic relationship but the fear of losing control might block their emotional ownership to a commitment. Without their emotional ownership, not buy-in, any commitment made will have been done on a shaky foundation.

Now, they might be experiencing the getting married jitters. You must successfully deal with the fears and issues in synergistic alliance partnering with competitors. Sensitivity and understanding of your potential partner’s situation are crucial at this juncture. Talk about the up side and the down sides to your intended alliance. Talk about how you might deal with the relationship if things do not work out. Plan an exit strategy. Getting fears and issues out on the table rather than hiding them in the dark will serve all involved extremely well.

Where are you going to live?

The question is about your individual and combined marketing areas. Also, talk about new buying habits and information recovery systems. You will need to track new information to detect the value gained in the alliance. Selecting the alliance marketing area, geographically and service/product mix is no easy task. You will need to pay close attention to the small and large details alike. Might you share warehousing or delivery facilities or possibly even employees to overcome personnel challenges?

Who is Going to Do the Chores?

Alliance partner responsibilities and activities make the relationship a success or failure. Too often this is the area where unrealistic expectations of one another rear themselves. Be clear, commit it to writing, who will be doing what. The palest ink is better than the most powerful memory. It is too easy to forget your commitments in six months, a year or a decade later. Regular value updates on the alliance relationship will be very helpful. Too often we keep issues to ourselves and the issues fester like a splinter. This is not the way to build a successful relationship. The relationship value updates should consist of expectations (met and missed) and profitability targets. This information will assist you in determining to upgrade, downgrade or maintain the relationship as is.

Time to tie the knot

The synergistic alliance partnering agreement should be in writing. It should contain detailed explanations of activities, expectations and responsibilities of each partner. This document will be your guiding light or road map for your successful alliance relationship. When in question, you will refer to the “Partnering Charter.” Now that you are in a relationship, it will be necessary to make regular relationship bank deposits of physical and emotional energy. Always meet your partner more than half way. By giving more than half, a robust synergy follows and so much more is possible by working in concert than singularly.

Surviving under the sheets?

Yes! Being in an alliance relationship is much like being married. Once the synergistic partnering alliance is in place it becomes essential to learn how to become successful cohabitants.  While each of you is responsible for your own success, you now must consider how your actions will affect your partner’s business. Be aware of the things you do and how your actions might create a need for your partner to change their strategic plan. Confer before you act. After all, you are in bed together. To get space, you must give it first.

When your partner takes all the covers

This is not much fun. To Successfully deal with the regular and normal issues and challenges of the relationship, you must get past the “Denial Syndrome.” Denial is an insidious situation that generally results in personal destruction. The expression, putting your head in the sand like an ostrich is applicable to denial. The problem with putting your head in the sand is that you leave your posterior undefended. Too often in conflict, one finds it easier to ignore than confront. A confrontation does not have to be a knock down drag out affair, especially if you selected your partner well. Open communication is the key element in dealing with missing covers, or anything else. Remember, if you steal your partner’s sheets today, they might take yours when you are cold and in need.

We must go to the marriage counselor

When relationship roadblocks occur, it may be necessary to seek third party counsel for mediation. In this situation, authenticity and openness are meaningful. Since you took the time to choose well, it is usually worth the time, energy and expense necessary to rebuild the partnering bridge. Mediation is becoming a popular method for resolving conflict and it will be easier than you might think to find a qualified mediator. In this process of reconciliation, focus on the reasons for selecting your partner and the benefits you hoped to receive rather than the anger, rage or hurt feelings.

Oh no, divorce!

You truly tried but it did not work out. For a myriad of reasons, this sometimes happens. No reason to feel like a failure or declare that you’ll never again be in a relationship. In dealing with separation issues, be the bigger person and again meet your partner more than half way. Otherwise the rage and anger will fester and you will become immobilized. If there is “community property” dispose of it fairly or offer to buy out your partner. Either work it out, or take court ordered pennies on the dollar. Only outsiders win in this situation.

We did it, and look at the profits

Yes, success is my hope for you and your partner. Enjoying the journey with your alliance partner and looking for additional opportunities is what make all the work worth the energy. Maybe your alliance will simply be a buying consortium. Perhaps it will be an alliance to serve a large multi regional customer. It could be to share a pool of employees or an advertising coop. What ever you select, have fun in your partnering journey. Enjoy the process and the rewards. And I assure you, build your alliance correctly, and there will be rewards.

Alliance Synergy

Making Your Alliances Work—Competent Collaborations (1482 words)

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on collaborationCompetent collaborations…is the synergy worth the energy?

The reason I ask this question is because, developing successful and profitable alliances is rarely easy. If it were, everyone would be doing it successfully. Many alliance consultants, and myself included, have determined that about 50% of the alliances created in the United States fail for one reason or another.

The reasons that you may select to enter into alliance relationships are varied, and generally based on need and competencies. The need side is usually represented in areas where we may consider ourselves or our organization to be lacking or weak. The competency side is the opposite, the strengths that we have to share. An ideal alliance situation is with a person or organization that exhibits competency in our weaker areas and weakness or need in our personal and/or organization’s areas of competency. This is where our circles of interest strongly overlap—where we have the greatest chance to be of service to one another.

To be successful in building competent collaborations, at least a sprinkling of the following six personal qualities should be encompassed within you and your alliance partners: Curious, Vision, Communication, Leadership, Organize, and Compassion. Let’s look at these individually.

Collaboration Curious. While you’ve undoubtedly heard is said many times, “Curiosity killed the cat.” We’re not cats. We’re business people searching for leading-edge methods for which we desire to improve our capabilities and hopefully our profits. Curious means you are open to new, and frequently, unsuspected opportunities. You must be curious to alliance possibility in order to simply get started.

Vivid Vision. Where is it, which you want your alliance to help you reach? What synergistic goals do you visualize being possible? Simply developing an alliance because it appears the trendy thing to do is hardly a reason to put forth the effort. Additionally in the area of vision, you must be able to see into the future and not become dependent upon your alliance partner—doing this will make you weak. On the other side, if you become too independent, you will no longer be desirable ac an alliance partner to others. Your vision needs to be to work toward that proverbial, and many times elusive, sweet spot where you become interdependent and develop time effective synergies.

Compelling Communication. Through my research, I have discovered that the leading reason for alliance failure is communication. While communication does cover a number of issues and situations, this is the key area for which I’d suggest you focus greatly.

A great example of the need for quality communication is the fact that Eli Lilly, the pharmaceutical giant, writes into many of their alliance agreements a mandatory quarterly face-to-face meeting of the principals from each company in the alliance. While the Lilly executives sometimes complain they do not have the time for these meetings, the meetings are contractually mandatory. Generally there is a social dinner the evening before the meeting where many of the current issues and problems get brought out in the open in a non-threatening manner.

Following the 911 attacks and resulting travel challenges, some of the Lilly alliance executives tried fulfilling these contractual obligations via videoconferencing. It seemed to work well and continued substituting videoconferencing for the mandatory face-to-face meetings. It did not take long for alliance problems to start magnifying. As soon as they went back to the live face-to-face meetings, they started again solving challenges before they ever became alliance relationship problems.

Living Leadership. In order for your alliances to be successful, you must exhibit at least a modicum of leadership qualities. I did not say dictatorship! Here, more than in any other area, your willingness to focus on getting things done, rather than to obsess on being right will determine alliance success. In a corporate environment, the paradigm of partnering must start at the top. The executive must drive the philosophy through both word and deed. Even if you are a single person practice, you must be an alliance champion throughout all the areas of your business.

Outrageously Organized. Your ability to organize, in the form of alliance structure, procedure and process will have a huge impact on the ultimate implementation and longevity of your alliance relationships. Continuing with Lilly, their alliance implementation process is so sophisticated that they measure (Lilly Web) the perceptions of all of the key players in their alliances—Lilly players and those of their alliance partners. The perceptions that they measure are basically what everybody thinks about one another. This allows Lilly to course correct when they discover that Lilly’s, and their alliance partners’ perceptions of the performance of one another is distorted or out of balance.

Careful Compassion. As you meander through the process of alliance development and implementation, you need to have compassion, and even tolerance, for the foibles of others. This quality will allow you to maintain your sanity in what can sometimes seem like alliance insanity. As you develop alliance relationships, sometimes your alliance partner might, in your opinion, let you down. Since not everybody happens to be as bright as you are; an alliance success secret is to give your alliance partner a break once in a while—especially if your expectations are a bit unrealistic.

Relationship Glue, Relationship Value Updates. For years, I have told my alliance clients, that if they would just complete a Relationship Value Update(RVU) for one another as little as twice yearly, they could head off a number of relationship killer situations. Some have, and succeed but unfortunately many have not and have failed. While using this tool does not guarantee success, but it sure makes alliance success more likely. There is the long form in my book, Developing Strategic Alliances, (to access this and other helpful additional information from Ed Rigsbee at no charge, please visit www.rigsbee.com/downloadaccess.htm).

Here, I’ll share with you my short form. I believe this RVU if used diligently, will make a lasting difference for you as you go through your alliance implementation process.

Below, you will find the three key questions for both you and your alliance partner to answer IN WRITING about the value of your alliance with one another. Then mail your answers to the other. Then each of you can review the information in the privacy of your own office—it’s much better this way. Doing this is far less threatening than is a face-to-face value meeting—that can be done later. Now each of you can quietly read the RVU and hopefully better understand the others’ perspective on the success of the alliance and the value it does, or does not, deliver. This tactic is your best help for avoiding perception challenge issues and dealing with small issues before they get out of hand.

  • The value I’m getting from the relationship.
  • The Value I think you are receiving.
  • Your suggested improvement strategies

Contracts. Written agreements, whatever you call them, are crucial in the success of an alliance. No matter how trusting and loyal each alliance partner operates toward the other—in time people forget their promises. Sometimes they even come to believe they promised something other than they actually did. You have heard it said by any number of professional speakers, “The palest ink is far better than the most retentive memory.” I have found this platitude to be quite accurate. By putting to paper your expectations of one another, along with promises and listing who is responsible for what, you both will have a living document to use as an alliance relationship guide. This guide, contract or agreement, whatever the name, can naturally be adjusted at any time based on new information, market conditions and/or changed alliance partner commitment levels.

In the final analysis, I can honestly tell you that alliance relationships, for a myriad of reasons, can be extremely profitable for all involved. The key is to determine if the synergy is worth the energy. If it were not, why in the world would you want to proceed? But, if you believe the synergy is worth your energy, you can open the door to a new world of business possibilities. With partners that share their complementary core competencies, things can be done that you may never have imagined possible in your career. A truth that I have discovered in my years of alliance consulting, most people are in such a big hurry to build their alliance that they over look the most important alliance issue—pick your partners well. Skip the necessary due diligence, and you’ll be crying about conflict resolution and exit agreements rather than focusing on the opportunities and possibilities.

My Alliance Partner Quiz will help you to get a fighting start in selecting your alliance partners. You may also access this at no charge, please visit www.rigsbee.com/downloadaccess.htm.

Good luck in building your synergistic alliances.