“Why are you here” was a question I faced the first day of the ASAP European Alliance Conference in Amsterdam. It is not that I questioned myself, it was someone else who posed the question to me during a break. It felt like she thought that I already know it all when it comes to alliances. I might know a lot, but there is always room to learn more.

In a typical conference fashion, also here in Amsterdam, many presenters shared their company journey in alliances. Also in a typical conference fashion, many presenters shared more of their company’s commercials than lessons learned. The braver presenters also shared their failures and knew how to turn them into lessons. Those lessons often were not rocket science and in many cases could have been prevented.

Here are three elements I noticed being mentioned in many presentations:

In a number of presentations trust was highlighted as an essential cornerstone for successful alliances. Mutual trust is established based on your behavior and your partner’s behavior. With a trusting relationship you can more easily sail the rough waters together.

Culture was mentioned a couple of times in the presentations. Culture defines how organizations work and respond. Some presenters shared their lessons of jumping in too easily and making assumptions that another company would work more or less in a similar fashion than their company did. The advice that came forward is to always perform a partner assessment. If the partner is from another country, then it is not only the company culture that might be different, but there is also the country culture that will play a role. In such a case seek advice to learn more about your partner’s country culture.

Internal alignment and communication
Aligning your internal organization is equally important as finding alignment with your partner. When people are internally not aligned, then it will be more challenging to stay aligned with your partner. Alignment starts with a proper briefing when new members join the company or the alliance team. It continues with constant communication. It is better to communicate too often, than too little. Else assumptions will take the place of proper communication. One of the presenters shared how they set clear rules for communication in case of issues. It started with the instruction by discussing the issue with your counterpart. “Pick up the phone” and talk to each other instead of sending of the wrong emails in the heat of the fire.

For me this conference was a good way to learn from other experiences again and network with like minded people. It was a refreshing way to stay up to date. What are you doing to stay up to date?