Leaving your partner gracefully

Everything changes and so do partnerships. When starting with a partnership, you might have a long duration in mind. However, circumstances may change in a way that asks for a renegotiation of the partnership into a new form or shape.

Sometimes you come to the conclusion that there is no future for a partnership left, and an exit is the only way out. An exit might be caused by market changes, strategic realignments or seeing that the opportunity for the partnership is limited, compared to what you anticipated when you started. In some cases, a referendum might force you to exit a partnership, although that only seems to happen in political partnerships.

So, what to do when you decide that an exit is the best course of action? In the ideal situation, you want to exit gracefully and ensure that the door stays open for future business with your partner. After all, you already built up a healthy relationship with trust between the two organizations. That can make a good starting point for future partnerships, as long as you exit gracefully.

The first thing to do is to consult the clauses in the partnership contract about an exit. Create an exit plan together with your partner and negotiate specific exit terms if needed. When you’ve created a joint brand as part of the partnership, you will need to come to terms on what will happen with that brand after the partnership ends. Also, intellectual property rights need to be looked upon again, and you will need to negotiate the respective partner limitations.

When the partnership already had products or services in the market before termination, then there will be customers involved. Keep customer satisfaction in mind when working the exit. Unhappy customers will not only have an effect on the joint product but have an effect on your brand as well. Customer satisfaction is in the interest of both your partner and yourself.

Like with any other stage in a partnership, so also during an exit, involve your stakeholders. Communication is one of the seven key alliance success elements, so also one of the key elements for a successful exit. It might even be more critical during an exit scenario than ever before in the partnership.

Change is a constant and partnerships come and go. Somewhere in the future, your partnerships will end. The better the relationship was during the partnership, the easier the exit conversations will be. There are seven partnership management essentials, that will help to keep a partnership healthy during its lifetime.

Communication is one of these seven essentials, and so is trust. Actively maintaining alignment is another one. Most of them are simple in concept, yet not always easy to perform; you need to perform them with care and attention. In many cases calling for independent and unbiased outside help turns out to be the most effective route to long and prosperous partnerships


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