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What Makes Partnerships Work?

Simon Carkeek
240212 What Makes Partnerships Work
© Scotwork NA

Last week, my wife, Sophie, took on a new role at her company, focused on partnership development. For the most part, these strategic partnerships are based on shared goals and resources. Skilled negotiations are required to establish and grow these partnerships’ value even when cash doesn’t change hands.
As Valentine’s Day approaches, I got to thinking about how these partnerships are not unlike romantic relationships. Staying happily married means working on the partnership and trying to meet one another’s priorities, needs, and wants.

One Valentine’s Day early in my relationship with Sophie could have resulted in the whole partnership dissolving before it had really started! The first year we were together, I didn’t bother to get a card for her because I decided I wasn’t bothered if I didn’t get one from her. I thought my reasoning was sound: Valentine’s Day is just a commercial concept, and I wasn’t going to be manipulated.

Sophie did not share my rationale. I realized I was focused on myself and not on her. Lesson learned. I now embrace the day as a small but important confirmation to Sophie of our partnership. If I had stubbornly stuck to my perspective and repeated the behavior the following year, our partnership likely would not have endured.

There is an important principle here: Partnerships are about alignment and working toward common goals. They are also about understanding that parties value things differently. Making sure I give Sophie a card on Valentine’s Day costs me nothing, but it represents value to her and, therefore, adds value to our relationship.

This concept also applies to our business partnerships. Skilled negotiators work to develop enduring relationships containing items that both sides value. These relationships facilitate creativity and collaboration that increase the rewards available for all parties.

Here are three negotiation techniques that can strengthen partnerships and create value . . .

  • Establish mutual understanding
    Long-term relationships are seldom built on mere transactions. They require open communication, active listening, and a genuine effort to comprehend each other's needs and concerns. By fostering an atmosphere of transparency and respect, we lay the foundation for a successful partnership built on trust.

  • What do they really want?
    Concentrate on underlying interests and needs. Even when an ask seems unlikely or even impossible, find out what is behind it. Parties may discover creative solutions that address the root cause of any issue, leading to more possibilities for everyone involved.

  • Encourage flexibility and creative thinking
    Be open to exploring new ideas and approaches during negotiations. Sometimes the most valuable solutions come from a willingness to explore innovative options that could lead to a better outcome for all parties.

Most importantly, show people that you care — in your personal life and in business. When we make an effort to recognize, show interest in, and appreciate one another, good things happen.
Happy Valentine’s Day, especially to Sophie! (This year marks our 20th anniversary. Count on another Valentine’s card this week.)

We Can Help Strengthen Partnerships and Create Value.
Skilled negotiators work to develop relationships that facilitate creativity and collaboration, increasing the rewards available for all parties. Scotwork can help you develop great negotiating partnerships. Get in touch!

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