Why can’t David partner with Goliath?

You have probably heard of the story of David and Goliath: the small boy David who defeats the giant Goliath. He does so not with brute force, but with a quick hit from his sling. The characters of David and Goliath are often used to describe an underdog situation, where a smaller person or company is dealing with a larger one.

It was in the very first episode of my podcast in 2010, that the late Tom Halle introduced me to the concept of David partnering with Goliath. Tom had made it his specialization to help small companies partner with large ones, especially in the IT domain.

Since that conversation, I have been involved in turning around several alliances and joint ventures where small companies tried to team up with large ones. Some to success, some already beyond help. In most cases, the root cause of the trouble comes down to the inability to build bridges due to a lack of understanding of the other side.

Small companies and large companies have fundamentally different dynamics. For example: in a small company, decisions can be made and changed within minutes. In a large company, decisions can take weeks and to change them is a burden. However, that’s not all. Small companies feel to a lesser extent bound by rules, which makes them innovative. Large companies live by rules and procedures, which keeps them alive.

Fundamental differences, but not insuperable, as long as there is a willingness from both parties to build the bridges that are needed to succeed with the partnership. Here are five tips from my ebook that I often see to be forgotten or that are not in place, but can help you set a solid foundation or restructuring basis for an alliance or joint venture:

  • Be clear on your reason for partnering (tip 2)
  • Ensure involved executive support (tip 6)
  • Agree on a set of core values and operating principles (tip 9)
  • Be clear on roles and responsibilities (tip 10)
  • Communicate, Communicate, Communicate (tip 17)

These five tips are applicable to any kind of partnership. Yet with the “David and Goliath” kind of partnerships, these tips are even more important!

When emotions are involved, and you are already in too deep over your head to see a way out: feel free to call me! I make business collaborations work, and in many cases an independent outside-in view brings new roads to a solution. After all, you are also not your own physician, are you?


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