How often do we agree to work together with co-workers, or even partnerships, providing a verbal yes when something deep down doesn’t feel like the right fit? It can be easy to fall hard — and fast — in business and in life. So next time your heart tells you to dive in (head first, only to find out the waters are shark infested or subzero temps) consider these guidelines and dip your toe in the shallow water.
Make it meaningful
If you decide to commit, do so in such a way that makes sense for everyone. Compromise feels like a requirement, but if one side ignores the needs or interests of the other party, getting to “yes” may not be an easy process for long.
Consider: Is it a resounding YES? Even if it feels like it at first, allow time to marinate and think the arrangement through. We humans can get excitable and act like overactive pups, but it’s critical to be thorough. How will the partnership resonate with your leadership team? Do your operating styles and leadership philosophies complement one another? Is your vision the same?
Do your goals really align, or do you just want them to?
Take the time to get the dirty work out of the way at the beginning. (Do the hardest thing, first). Chores first, play later. Knock out the due diligence and reference checks. Have the tough conversations. Hammer out the legal documentation and formalities. When sticking points come up, don’t sugarcoat or cobble together a compromise. Cut your losses and walk away before anyone gets hurt.
Consider: Are you keeping the prospective deal from anyone close to you? Explore why that it is, and if you suspect even for a moment there is something to the behavior, request more time before you make a final agreement. And then talk to that person.
Is it a fair deal?
Does one party stand to win (or lose) more with a windfall success? How is the ownership structured? Do all parties feel the deal is equitable? Maybe not, but surface the imbalance and document — in writing — the reasons for it. Bring in objective legal counsel to review as needed.
Examples might be:
- Since Thomas personally drives 1M page views to the website per day, he should only contribute $xx / month.
- Org A owns (and maintains) the land and associated groundwater rights/responsibilities, therefore Org B is responsible for all other operational costs.
- “Acme” brings worldwide name recognition and “Beta” just started. Therefore, the revenue split is 65/35 in Acme’s favor.
To recap, some things to remember:
Do: Put respective objectives, expectations, and goals in writing. Get alignment before ANY work begins or money is invested.
Do: Ask questions. Be willing to walk away if something isn’t a good fit.
Don’t: Hold back. Say what you mean. Be honest and direct. Practice active listening and do not under any circumstances take anything personally.
Don’t: Worry about letting someone down. Even if your decision will lead to short-term revenue loss or risks upsetting a colleague, holding back is not worth it.
Share your experience with us or comment below. How has you navigated through partnerships and collaborations?