Why Strategic Alliances Are a Lot Like Dating

By Nina Kaufman, Esq.

Actually, there are a lot of things that are a lot like dating. But strategic alliances are one of them. You meet someone . . . and the urge to “partner” with them forms. Whatever the words you use–“joint venturing,” “partnering,” “having an alliance”–you start with the feeling that you alone are not enough. This other person (or company) could bring you someplace you could never go yourself (or couldn’t without a huge effort).

Maybe you’re excited about the new target markets you could reach. Or the new products/services you could provide. Your heart goes pitter-pat, and you’re eager to skip down the lane with your new “beloved,” channeling your energies into what you dream you could accomplish together. But you may be ignoring red flags and your company’ other needs.

I’ve heard this time and again from entrepreneurs who have gone full-tilt-boogie into new ventures without thinking them through. They say “I do” without taking the time to examine whether the alliance makes solid business and financial sense.

That’s like marrying someone right after the first date. It’s too easy (and casual) for someone to say, “Oh, we really should partner on so-and-such” or “let’s co-market blah-dee-blah.” Here are some questions for exploring whether this particular alliance makes sense for you:

  • What are your business goals?
  • Can this person/company really help you get there?
  • What’s his or her track record in these kinds of relationships with others?
  • What’s the person’s reach? How many people does she have in her database?
  • How long has she owned her company or been working in her field? In other words, what’s her level of expertise?
  • Is she “congruent”? Does the image maven dress like a schlep? Does the communications guru fail to look you in the eye?
  • What does your gut tell you? Would you enjoy working with this person?

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