The necessity to fully engage with people within your existing team and network is often overlooked.
I am approached regularly by businesses looking to be connected with other organisations to further develop their new product or service. The business founder or leaders will be looking to solve a challenge or problem they have encountered, in partnership. To make the right connections, I need to understand the business, the impact they are looking to make and then elicit or co-create the opportunities they have available to them.
However, I often identify that a fundamental step which increases the likelihood of a successful partnership has been overlooked. Frequently, the necessity to fully engage with people within their existing team and network has not occurred. I see this happen in all sizes of business but its particularly prevalent in large public sector and corporate organisations. The leadership team have not articulated the problem they are looking to solve through collaboration before seeking partners.
Take your team with you
I am a huge advocate of collaborating with different types of organisations and therefore my default is to encourage partnerships with businesses very different by complementary to your own. However, to effectively engage and collaborate with another organisation, you need to have your own team on board first. I am not suggesting that all the skills and expertise you require to solve a problem are already in your existing team or network. What I am saying is that unless you have worked with those closest to you first, you will not have the right insight and support in place to make the collaboration with the outside world a success.
This is not dissimilar to the time when you started your own business, particularly for those of you who have launched their business as a second career. Before you could consider putting the right team in place to help you to launch and grow your business, you required the support of those closest to you. Before you left full-time employment or chose entrepreneurship as your path, many of you had to prepare your family for the transition from having a job to running a business.
However driven and passionate you are about what you do in your business, running your business is stressful at times and you will encounter challenges that you have not experienced previously. These will be exacerbated if those around you are unsupportive of your new business. To limit any negativity you have to clearly communicate, manage expectations and most importantly, take your family and close network on the journey with you. You need to share your challenges together.
Initiating a new partnership or collaboration externally is exactly the same. Even though you as the business founder or leader are really clear on why you want to embark on a collaboration, unless you have the support and understanding from the team around you it will not work.
Prepare with your team
The steps you need to take to engage fully with your team is actually very helpful for the collaboration process. To prepare for collaboration, you need to ensure that you and your team are really clear on:
- the challenge or problem you have which you believe an external partnership can assist with and the desired goal or outcome
- the potential to solve the problem internally has been exhausted
- the internal resources that will be required to make a collaboration a success
- the shared values you are looking for in a collaboration
- who will need to be engaged with the external partners
- the value you will take into a partnership through the skills and expertise you offer
You could argue that some of these are operational details which can be determined once a collaboration has been agreed. From experience, I know that the most successful collaborations arise when there is absolute buy-in from partnering businesses and all partners have exhausted trying to solve the challenge alone. They know the expertise they are collectively taking into the partnership and they have bought into the end goal. This cannot be confirmed without all six areas being explored independently first.
You can never guarantee that a partnership will flourish, but there are many foundations you can put in place to increase the likelihood of this occurring. This is one.
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