In partnerships and alliances we often talk about the need for shared resources, shared rewards and shared risks. Dave Brock adds the necessity for a shared vision and shared values to it. Dave brings it together in a nice formula to which partnerships should comply:

(SR)³ + (SV)²

In that same conversation, Dave emphasizes that shared does not necessarily mean equal. In some alliances, it is impossible to have equal investments or equal rewards. Simply because of the fact that the companies differ in size and availability of resources.

Still, I often notice that in these David and Goliath type of collaborations, where large and small work together, there is often the expectation that both organizations work in the same fashion. That is obviously not possible. Size matters in the sense that it plays a role in our bandwidth of resources and investment capabilities and the way we do business. Small companies have different levels of authorization than large companies have and can thus take decisions faster.

These different organizational rhythms often lead to frustration among the partners. Frustration that rises because of the fact that the differences are not explained.

In a recent Alliance Masterclass, we had an extensive class discussion about the topic. My client for this class was a medium-sized pharma company that was facing issues where small, startup type, partners complained that my client was too slow in making decisions. On the other hand, my client noticed irritation within their own company, that the large “big pharma” companies they partnered with, were slow in making decisions. The size inequality worked both ways, sometimes they were the big partner, sometimes the small one.

As with many challenges with alliances, also for this issue of different rhythms and capabilities due to size differences, there is no simple answer to a solution. It depends on the situation with the partner. In general there is, however, one golden rule that can make it easier and prevent irritation among partners: communicate about it.

Explain how you do business and how much time you need to perform certain tasks. Ask questions to understand why a faster decision would be of importance to your partner. It might help to speed up your own organization when you can explain why a faster decision is important, for your partner, for your partnership and thus for your own company.

Size does matter in how we do business and communication can help to bridge the differences.