7 Ways to Build Better Partnerships

Partnerships are critical to inventing and growing businesses. Over the course of my career, I’ve experienced this while working on brands such as Cheerios, Yahoo!, Best Buy, Land O’Lakes, and more. The best partnerships I’ve been part of were built on trust and brought both companies to places they never imagined possible. It doesn’t always work this way. I’ve also been part of some really bad partnerships that were riddled with politics, selfishness and uncertainty. To help you avoid this, I’ve offered up seven actionable steps to make the most of your existing, and future, partnerships.

1. Map Out Your Core Values

The values of an organization are a key part of your decision-making DNA. They serve as the guiding principles to how you do business and the experience you create for customers. When seeking out partners, map out your core values against theirs and see how they overlap.

2. Double Down on Purpose

It’s critical for an organization to have a fundamental belief in the world. It’s even more important for companies to prove how they make their belief a reality. How a company is living their purpose should be complimentary to yours. If it is, both the partnership and experience for the end user will benefit.

3. Seek Out People, Not the Sign on the Door

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received in my career is to seek out people, not the sign on the door. Meaning, find the people you want to work with most and go from there. If you take this approach, you’ll find yourself more open minded about who you work with.

4. Ship Impatiently

You’ve found a great partner. Time to start planning … er ... making. A testament of a meaningful partnership is its ability to ship good enough experiences over a short period of time. ‘Good enough’ and ‘short’ are subjective to the partnership, but a more frequent ship rate pays dividends.

5. Expect Much, Compromise More

You should expect a lot from each other. Never settle for having done something the ‘best’ way. Together, you can always make something better. However, making things better comes with strong opinions. Be willing to compromise among them. You’re both great. So are your ideas. Compromise.

6. Listen For the Why

Actively listen for the why behind a partner’s point of view. If you truly understand the why, it puts both of you in a position to better assess the what. Partners that skip right to the what are oftentimes paralyzed with an overabundance of ideas without a vision. Hearing the why avoids this.

7. Fearlessly Explore Together

Because exploration means risk of failure, you should expect your partners to have the courage and humility to know that failure is an essential ingredient of long-term success. This means easing up on short-term constraints and enabling your partners to help you find new ways to grow.