Today everyone seems to be looking to buy, sell or form some kind of partnership or joint venture. Most of us understand that there is value in being able to share resources, cross promote businesses, market to similar customer demographics and even develop products and services together.
Whilst this might sound like a great idea at the time, we need to be extremely careful to protect our own reputation at any cost. Now more than ever, we are judged on the power of our own personal brand, in many ways more so than that of our businesses brand. Partner or joint venture with the wrong person or the wrong company and your reputation and that of your business can be destroyed.
In the past I have made this mistake. As a speaker I have presented at an event where I was sold one thing and the reality was very different. What was promoted as an upmarket professional event was little more than a seriously hard sell to a group of exhausted people who were pressured into buying high value products that in hindsight were of little value.
There were some big names presenting at this event. Richard Branson and Tim Ferris to mention just two. I think we all felt a little betrayed. Fortunately, I learned a lot and I will never make that mistake again.
When it comes to going into some kind of partnership or joint venture or really any kind of commercial arrangement, I offer the following 7 strategies to avoid having it end in tears.
1. Treat protecting your reputation as the main priority (the reputation of you and the reputation of your business). Keep asking yourself if this relationship will be in integral alignment with you, your own values and goals. If not, walk away early.
2. Don't rush to say yes. If you are getting pressured into partnering with an organization, ask yourself why? Be prepared to let the deal go. There are always other opportunities. The minute I get pressured, with something like "you need to decided by 5pm today", I make a decision on the spot and say no.
3. Always do your due diligence on prospective partners. It is rare that someone will tell you any negatives, it's up to you to do your own homework. If anything looks fishy, it probably is.
4. Moving goal posts should set off an alarm. If you have agreed upon a certain course of action and your new partner organization wants to change the deal, be very concerned as to what this means. If they can't stick to the agreement at the start, things will only get worse.
5. Always plan for the divorce - not the honeymoon. Any new venture sounds wonderful in the planning stages and it gets exciting when you kick it off, but what happens if it doesn't go to plan? Fingers start getting pointed, promises get broken and the situation turns ugly.
6. Get it all in writing, even the worse case scenarios. It is surprising how often this is ignored. We don't live in a world where handshakes or even verbal agreements are honored. Get everything in writing, who will do what, by when, for how much and what happens if they don't.
7. Think back to any joint ventures or partnership arrangements that you've had in the past. What have you learned from them and what will you do differently next time?