Successful Alliance Partner Selection: The 4-step Guide


This book delves into the critical aspect of alliance partner selection, an indispensable factor in creating successful strategic alliances and partnerships. Drawing from the best practices of highly prosperous partnerships, its approach is universally applicable, catering to organisations of all sizes.



Alliance Partner Selection: Why Likability Alone Isn’t Enough

Reflecting on Personal Experience

Two decades ago, I found myself facing a challenging situation when my alliance partner abruptly informed me that I was now responsible for funding our joint venture. Initially, our agreement had designated him as the financial backer while I focused on running the business. However, he reneged on his commitment, threatening legal action if I didn’t comply. This marked the start of a tumultuous six-week period that culminated in a painful dissolution of our business partnership. Despite my fondness for my partner, it became evident that likability was an inadequate criterion for selecting a successful alliance partner.

In hindsight, had I conducted thorough due diligence, I would have uncovered discrepancies in our companies’ cultures and his misrepresented financial situation. However, my affinity for my counterpart led me to overlook these critical factors, resulting in a costly lesson learned.

Similar Mistakes in Larger Organisations

Subsequent experiences have taught me invaluable lessons, including the realization that the pitfall of prioritizing likability extends beyond small businesses. Working with larger organisations, I’ve witnessed similar scenarios unfold on a grander scale. For instance, one of my clients hastily forged a partnership with another company based solely on personal rapport established at a casual neighbourhood barbecue.

Tasked with making this newfound alliance fruitful, the innovation director faced significant challenges in identifying a viable value proposition. Ultimately, the endeavour failed due to a lack of compatibility between the organisations. This instance, like many others, underscores the inadequacy of likability as a foundation for successful alliances.

Avoiding the Likability Trap

Selecting an alliance partner should involve a comprehensive assessment process from the outset. Partner assessment is pivotal in laying the groundwork for future alliance success, as evidenced by the aforementioned examples. So, how should you approach partner selection? It’s imperative to move beyond superficial criteria like likability and eschew impromptu executive rendezvous at barbecues.

A successful partner selection process entails evaluating compatibility across various dimensions, including strategic, operational, and cultural fit. Additionally, considerations such as human fit and network compatibility can enhance the assessment process. Crucially, assessing differences between potential partners can uncover synergies critical for alliance success, though managing these differences effectively is essential to mitigate potential obstacles.

The 4-Step Guide to Successful Partner Selection

A structured approach to partner selection can significantly improve the likelihood of forging robust alliances. The four-step guide outlined below offers a solid methodology based on best practices gleaned from successful partnerships, applicable across organisations of all sizes:

1. Establishing the strategic rationale.
2. Identifying needs and contributions.
3. Defining the ideal partner profile.
4. Approaching potential partners strategically.

Following this methodology diligently can lay a solid foundation for your partnership endeavours, potentially yielding substantial returns on investment when executed correctly.