The benefits of creating a win-win strategic partnership are obvious. Your company gains valuable benefits and resources, and the company you’ve partnered with has its own incentive to continue the partnership. It means other companies are actively invested in your success and will drive your company to even greater heights.
Here are some simple keys for how to create win-win strategic partnerships.
Think Beyond The Immediate Benefits
When you’re at the table, it can be easy to think only in terms of what you’re walking away with. Negotiation can trigger self-preservation thinking and even scarcity mind-set.
Instead, you should consider what the long-term and intangible benefits might be. Be aware that it’s going to be better for both parties if you assume there’s an avenue for both of you to have your needs fully met.
This might mean making larger commitments or accepting smaller ones from the other party than you’d immediately like. A win-win partnership doesn’t mean creating something that’s immediately and perfectly equal; it means looking at how a partnership is going to play out and benefit both parties in the months and years to come.
Why This Partnership?
Before you enter or even start negotiating a partnership, you need to be clear about why.
“I need this partnership to succeed” isn’t a good enough reason, because it will allow you to accept non-optimal solutions. The other party will have a position of strength and the chance of you, or both of you, getting more harm than good out of the partnership is high.
Even if forming this partnership is vital, you need to be clear on why you need them and why they need you. You should identify the key resources and benefits that you both seek to gain. You should be on equal footing entering into the partnership.
Both before and during the negotiations, get clear and complete answers about why your prospective partner is looking to create a partnership as well. To create a win-win situation they should be as clear and forthcoming with their reasons for the partnership as you are with yours. A win-win partnership is formed only when you both completely understand the "why" of each other’s position.
Bring It All Together
A win-win partnership can be achieved only if you’re operating on the same wavelength. Once you’ve both been clear about the reasons you’re entering the partnership and the benefits you’re looking to get out of it, you should look to merge those visions optimally.
You should share the same values and priorities, and should have a clear vision of how you’re going to work together to realize them. Having a strong shared vision of what you’re looking to get out of the partnership and beyond will ensure that both of you are thinking about more than the immediate benefits of the contract, and will open you both up to difficult yet beneficial compromises.
Take It Slow
To create a win-win partnership, you should be proceeding with the core belief that your prospective partner is acting in good faith, is equally committed to the partnership, and the final result will be beneficial for all.
But just because that’s a healthy assumption to have, doesn’t mean it’s the correct one. It’s important to not rush into a partnership, and instead do your due diligence. Make sure, over the course of several meetings, that the enthusiasm and commitment aren’t waning, and that the partner appears able and willing to carry out the obligations of their half of the partnership.
It could also develop over the course of the meetings that the lack of enthusiasm and commitment is on your side. If you begin to feel like the partnership won’t be a good fit, and you won’t be able to deliver on the parts of the partnership that make it win-win, you can back away for that reason.
Rushing into a partnership without careful preparation and complete understanding will not create a win-win.
Getting There Isn’t Always Fun
No matter how in sync you might be on vision and values, there’s a solid chance you and your prospective partner have a different idea of what a categorical win would be. They’re going to make requests and demands that you may have to say no to. You’re going to have to make requests and demands that might be refused, or might not be an easy yes.
Getting to win-win means putting yourself in uncomfortable situations and working through them instead of settling for the most comfortable solution. The uncomfortable moments are why a shared vision and equal commitment are so vital to the process.
The Fine Print
It would be so nice and so easy if you could create and finalize a strategic partnership with a handshake, and have everything proceed smoothly from there.
Sadly, that’s not always the case. Even the most well-intentioned partnerships can fall apart if the agreements aren’t carefully documented. This is for your protection and theirs. If either of you forgets an element of your agreement and obligations, it can have disastrous results, even if it wasn’t unintentional.
You’ve put in all this work to create a win-win solution for you both, now you want to preserve it. Have documents drawn up that clearly outline all the details of your agreement, and sign them together.
Odds are this is something your new partner will be happy to do as well, but approach the topic from a win-win perspective. Explain to them that you want to have everything in writing so you can both ensure that your partnership continues to be fruitful.
A win-win partnership will see great benefits for your business and is more than just the sum of its parts. To get to a win-win solution you need to be honest with yourself and your prospective partner and have a holistic view of what win-win means.