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 “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” ~ Helen Keller

The word “collaboration” has been used almost as much as your favourite pair of tracksuit pants that saw you through the lockdown. The right collaborations, like your trusty track pants, can give you that warm and fuzzy feeling and be quite comforting to know that someone is supporting you and is interested in your business endeavours. With time, these relationships will be faced with challenges, testing hurdles and clashes of values; all of which can wear these partnerships very thin. How do you know when these relationships are so threadbare it is time to part ways and move ahead in other directions?

Why are collaborations so important and how do you select the right strategic alliances, partners, collaborators, sub-contractors for your business?

These alliances can make or break your business, helping you gain access to different markets but, they also play a significant role when it comes to your business’ reputation. If these businesses, and more often than not, their leadership, do something dodgy, then purely by association, you are implicated in their dubious actions too and your reputation will be tarnished.

“Strategic Alliances is one of the ten elements that is measured as a part of our proprietary reputation model, the Repudometer® that we’ve developed to quantify your reputation,” shares Regine le Roux, managing director of Reputation Matters.

Robert Mulder, director and founder of StratNovation, strategic management consultants, has an extensive network of specialist consultants that he has worked with since the inception of his business 25 years ago. “I have two non-negotiable values that I follow when it comes to strategic partnerships. Trust and respect. You must stay true to your values, your brand and yourself when deciding who to do business with,’ shares Mulder.

“It can’t just be a one-way street, all parties need to trust and respect each other throughout all interaction especially those with clients, it must be reciprocal,’ adds Mulder.

“As a leader, you need to take tight control over the project that you are collaborating on. You need to do your due diligence before engaging with someone and be very wary of sweet talkers; do not let their silver tongues con you. I learnt a very dear lesson some years ago when I lost R600 000, a considerable amount of revenue, because of a sweet-talking scammer.

How can this be avoided and what are the lessons?

  • Stay true to your values and align with people that share and demonstrate the same values.
  • Open and honest channels of communication are key.
  • Respect and safeguard each other’s intellectual property.
  • Have a process in place when selecting who you want to do business with and stick to it! As part of this process, check all the parties’ competencies. Conducting “values and ethics” due diligence is important.
  • As the leader you need to steer any joint client project, have checks and balances in place throughout to make sure that it is on track and on par with your level of service as well as that which is expected by the client.
  • Have clear deliverables and milestones in place against a payment plan so that you don’t get to the end of a project and questions about invoicing and billing only raised then.

George Washington said, “Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation. It is better be alone than in bad company.”

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