Imagine you are walking into a showroom to buy a product. Not just a product, but one you really need to keep your business running. You have some extensive conversations with the store owner, simply because you want to understand how the product fits your business. The conversation convinces you that the product does fit, so you ask the store owner for the cost associated with the product. It all feels good to you! While walking towards the exit with the store owner, you tell him (or her) that he can send an invoice after you have used the product and you will pay 60 to 90 days after you receive the invoice.

Sounds like a ridiculous situation? Think again! It is daily practice for large organisations! 

As a “store owner” delivering alliance & leadership coaching and training services I’ve, over the past 12 years, experienced so many similar situations. 

It is the typical David and Goliath scenario. The Goliath kind of companies seem to forget that the David type of companies have different rhythm and cash flow needs. Goliath shows a kind of arrogance and also forgets that David has the right to decline. That right is his proverbial sling! It is a scenario I have had to follow a few times over the past decade. Resulting in (amongst others) being accused of not understanding how business works (by people whose salary will be paid regardless).  

Of course, there are the good Goliaths, the truly collaborative ones. They approach situations from a “we” perspective by saying something like “There is a gap between your proposal and our usual way of working, how can we make it work for both of us?”. In some cases it is part of the collaborative company culture, in other cases it is just the people involved that know how to build bridges across internal red tape. In both cases it is usually the beginning of a long-standing partnership between the client and me. 

Alliances and Partnerships, whether between equal partners or between customers and suppliers, are about creating synergy and about creating value together. As such, one of the companies should not rule over the other. Respect, negotiating from a “we” perspective and looking for mutual benefits are essential building blocks in making partnerships successful. 

How about you, what is your experience? Is your company enabling you to build and maintain truly collaborative business partnerships?


Of course, we talk in our Alliance Masterclass extensively about the necessary collaborative behaviours. Check out this link for more information. We have a few places left for the December class, so remember to register quickly!

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