“Alliances are not marriages. They work until one party sees a prettier girl.” These words, emanating from a female executive of a software company I met recently, say volumes about this company’s inability to develop partnerships, which, consequently, has negatively impacted their market share and revenue growth. Furthermore, this executive stated that she was searching for a new head of alliances, as if this was the crux of their issue. The problem isn’t personnel, it is attitude and perspective.
By merging the capabilities of two organizations, the results can be astonishing, including better, stronger and more differentiated products, the ability to pursue new markets, or the potential to increase market share in existing markets. Ultimately the goal is to increase revenues and profitability. And, all of these objectives can be achieved, but that can’t happen without the commitment of both participants.
Similar to the search for a mate, there is a considerable investment made by firms searching for partners, especially in two particular areas: first, only through careful and thorough investigation can one find a good match; second, both of the partnering firms must devote time and resources to create a new product or service, and consequently develop new sales and marketing plans. The critical point here is that both firms will have invested a considerable amount of time, effort and money in forging their relationship—enough that they won’t be easily tempted by the ‘pretty’ girl that happens to walk by.
Norman Vincent Peale authored The Power of Positive Thinking, and I can almost guarantee that the executive quoted above has not read it. When you enter into a relationship with the expectation that your partnership can, so easily, fall apart, you set the wheels in motion for exactly that to happen. It begins with the attitude you take into meetings, but spreads to what information you share or don’t share, how and when you share information, the activities you wholeheartedly undertake and those that you conveniently forget to complete, or the half-assed effort you put into any of these activities. If a firm is less than fully committed, then it’s easy to see how a ‘prettier girl’ can catch a wandering eye.
Sometimes strategic alliances fail. Like marriages, there could be a host of reasons for the breakup, including cheating. It could also simply be that the two organizations are now moving in different directions. Active communications during the relationship is absolutely paramount to ensuring success, but it also provides the vehicle to understand the status and strength of your relationship. Shame on the company that relies on a ‘prettier girl’ to signal that your alliance is destined for divorce.
Ryck Marciniak (Guest Blogger)