Partnerships are born from a leader’s vision of what can be achieved with the right circumstances and assets. A close look at competitors will typically reveal aspects of companies that if joined together could create a stronger market share for both companies or solve problems that are occurring. In e-commerce, for instance, it makes little sense to reinvent a software shopping cart system, even if the exact nature of what is desired is not readily available. A close evaluation needs to reveal whether it would be better to partner and share revenue with an existing shopping cart developer to create a new one, which would decrease future ongoing revenue, or to hire the work done and continue to support it.
Before Closing the Deal: Identifying, and Resolving, Potential Problems with the Relationship
If it hasn’t happened yet, get rid of the whiners in the company. Find employees willing to embrace change and be excited about working with a new strategic alliance. Communication, or lack of it, is always at the root of any problem in relationships. In developing e-commerce strategic partners, this cannot be overemphasized. A strong communication procedure must be developed to address any potential breakdown.
Depending on the complexity of the partnership and the number of people and companies involved, it may make sense to use a Web-based communication or project management system. These systems only work when people use them, so tracking and requiring their use is imperative. The diversity of users and the number of work locations will determine the extent to which a Web-based communication project tracking system would be effective. Even when talks are begun between key executives, getting used to a Web-based system from the beginning can be very productive. Face-toface contact and communication can never be underestimated, however. From time to time, it makes sense to bring the stakeholders together.
In the world of creating strategic alliances for ecommerce, it is more important than ever to approach it from a standpoint of personal relationships. The old standby and still today as important a book, How to Win Friends and Influence People (Carnegie, 1936), references a conversation John D. Rockefeller had with Matthew C. Brush. Rockefeller said, “The ability to deal with people is as purchasable a commodity as sugar or coffee.
Once the expectation and vision for a partnership has been established, how does that evolve to a contract? In Getting Partnering Right, reference is made to a partnership document used by British contract specialist McGregor Cory, in which the opening simply states that it specifically disclaims any legal intent.
Win/Win? Or Not?
Is there any other way? In the past, several win/lose philosophies were invoked, perhaps not win/lose but at least win/more win. The philosophy of winning by causing others to lose has been rampant throughout corporate America. Employees were taught in many instances not to support each other and some felt that the only way to obtain recognition or a promotion was to undermine or eliminate another’s opinion or position.
Corporate executives, unsure of their own standing, have removed valuable employees from their teams as employees appeared to have talents not held by the executive. Instead of practicing teamwork and encouraging value for contributions, many employees have been taught to divide and conquer within their own departments and, ultimately, within the company. Secretive meetings, positioning, and last-minute layoffs have been common during the past decade.
Creating a Process for Maintenance and Growth of the Strategic Alliance
A simple strategy for managing any relationship is to agree on specific needs for communication as early as possible. Simplifying all processes to be easy to duplicate throughout all of the companies will hasten the success of any project but especially the relationships between individuals within several companies. Look at the communication and process designs as if a franchised system was being designed for the least knowledgeable employee.
If individuals focused on developing the best of their talents and trusted that they could find others—businesses and persons with whom they could form collaborations to create a unique dynamic product or result—would that not eventually create a better, more peaceful world? Wouldn’t we be perpetual in offering what we are really great at and admitting to others what we seek or need? Every family, society, and company reflects the thoughts and attitudes of its leaders.