A solid Partnership Agreement can be an incredibly powerful tool in developing and maintaining a strong collaborative partnership. A solid partnership Agreement is much more also than a non-disclosure agreement. I’ve been discussing many aspects that together build a great framework on which to base your collaboration partnership. Those aspects are all extremely important and make up the execution functions of the Partnership Agreement. The solid partnership agreement defines your relationship and expectations of that relationship.
A solid partnership starts with a solid foundation and this solid foundation is exactly what you should be describing in your partnership agreement. This foundation provides the basis for your interaction, communication methods, objectives and strategy for your partnership. While this agreement is not the single most important factor to a successful agreement, it does provide a starting point and a sound outline to the partnership. This agreement provides the basis to bring your collaborative partners together and define your ‘rules of engagement’ for interaction and expectations between partners. This is a critical first step to building the partnership because it provides the opportunity for all partners to participate in developing the agreement.
The partnership agreement should include communication methods and expectations, roles, responsibilities, objectives of the agreement and most important a mission. The details of these points will vary by partners and even the market and geographic region. I hope you can see that these points while commonplace and common to business communications it is important in developing your partnerships to be very clear and specific when you are defining them in the partnership agreement.
Let’s discuss a little bit about how to go about developing your partnership agreement. First of all it is important that you develop this agreement face to face. So this means that the development of a partnership agreement should be undertaken when you have defined your key collaborative partners. It is important to identify your key partners because these will be the partners that will achieve the greatest benefits in a robust collaborative partnership. Second, you must provide enough time for this meeting of partners to complete the agreement, I suggest a week to start. You must develop a detailed agenda for the week and review the agenda prior to the session with your partners to ensure everyone understands the objectives and agrees with them. Developing this agenda is the first step to developing your collaborative partnership so it is important that you collaborate with your partners to obtain their input and suggestions, just as important as requesting the input is actually using the input.
Your meeting to develop the partnership agreement should focus on the agenda and you should also expect and encourage deviation. This deviation is proof that your partners feel comfortable with the relationship and also are working to create the best agreement for the benefits of all partners. You should not be surprised if the agreement requires some fine-tuning after your work session week. In fact you should include this expectation in the agenda and initial follow-up outline. I think that the face-to-face session will build the solid foundation that will allow you to complete the follow-up through video conference and email.
One additional thing that you should take into account in developing your partnership agreement and that is that the agreement will be the basis for adding new partners. You should also inclulde in the agreement how you will add new partners to the group, this will be important aspect of the agreement that ensures that all of the ground rules are clearly defined and understood. The effective Partnership Agreement provides the basis and ground rules for open and honest communications and a foundation built on trust.
And now for the audience participation portion of the show…
Have you considered the impact of words on your team culture? How do phrases and gestures add to your communications? How do you build a cross cultural relationship? Have you dealt with an overseas outsourcing provider? How did you navigate the communication and cultural differences?