“Are you ready for working together with a different group of people? Do you have the resources to commit to a partnership?”
This week’s blog article about assessing your readiness to partner can be read in conjunction with my last article about essentials for successful partnerships. Having a strategic partnership can sound like the answer you’ve been looking for; and it can be if you are physically, psychologically and financially ready.
To guide you through the journey this article looks at why a partnership can be a good move, how you can self-assess your readiness for a serious partnership and what kind of collaboration you might want. Finally, it outlines steps towards identifying potential strategic partners.
Why do you want to partner?
A strategic partnership is formed when each business partner possesses unique assets that help the other. Small businesses and community organizations often do not have the resources to develop everything in-house, making partnerships an attractive tool to grow. The question you need to ask is: What is it that your organization is missing?
Take stock of your organization and ask yourself some honest questions. Do you reach out to every client you have identified in your market research? Is your brand big enough to attract larger corporate clients? Or do you have the knowledge of a unique market segment but not the capital to reach out to them? Is your product development incomplete, or can you deliver more holistic services through a strategic partnership?
These example questions reveal gaps that prevent you from growing further. When you are aware of the reason for partnering, you can analyze if you are ready for a partnership that will change processes and affect your organizational culture.
Are you ready to partner?
Create a SWOT analysis chart with employees, Board of Directors, even clients/customers. A SWOT analysis looks at internal strengths and opportunities and external opportunities and threats. Make sure you cover the topics below; they will give you a wealth of information.
- Does you company or organization have the support of management, staff and leaders?
- Have you examined alternatives and are you using your current network to the best of your abilities?
- Do you value working with other groups? Why?
- Do you communicate effectively to all stakeholder groups?
- Are you prepared to deal with conflicts?
- Have you thought about the time and resources necessary to devote to a partnership? Think beyond financial investment, and include space, equipment, time, staff and volunteers in the assessment.
- Do you have in-depth knowledge of the target market and clientele?
What kind of partnership do you want?
There are a variety of partnerships you can pursue. Feasibility will depend on the rationale for the partnership as well as your organization’s readiness to undertake it. Do you want a shorter or a long-term collaborative effort? Is it a complex task or a straightforward task? Do you want to start small or start big? Is management support needed or can staff directly involved handle it themselves? Are you looking for sharing expertise in program or product development?
Identifying potential partner organizations
With the first three questions answered, you are prepared to explore who’s out there to partner with. Start with looking at potential roles you would like partners to take on. Then, create a Venn diagram based on the following information:
- Possible partner organizations that popped up in conversations you had with colleagues and key contacts
- Experience (history or budding interest in the issue or product) and target market of these businesses
- Resources, such as human, in-kind, financial, and expertise
Meet with your top ten potential partners to find out more, assess compatibility and gauge their interest. An often forgotten but very useful exercise is to identify major pros and cons with each of them. This will help you create a short list of the top two or three organizations you are serious about approaching for a partnership.