Time after time I run into situations where people use words to say things when they actually mean to say something else. Or… is it that they use different words than the ones I understand? Hmm, good point. Anyway, the point is about the words you use when you talk about a collaboration with another organization. You know, the kind of collaboration where it is more effective to do it together, or the one where you are creating something together that you can not create alone. That sounds like synergy, doesn’t it? Indeed, I mean those synergistic collaborations, where 1+1 equals 3. The sum of the collaboration is greater than the sum of the parts.


The confusion game

You have probably been reading my weekly column for a while, so you know that I am talking about strategic alliances. So where is the confusion? Why don’t I just say so?


A few weeks ago I received a newsletter from Marc Mawhinney, a coach who is coaching coaches. His newsletter is actually a paper one. To some, it might seem old-fashioned, but for Marc, it is an excellent marketing tool. It is more than that, it is also a source of income as it goes on a subscription. But I digress. In the newsletter, Marc wrote about creating Joint Ventures. Now, I don’t know what idea comes up for you, but in my dictionary, a Joint Venture is a separate company, a separate legal entity,  where the two owners jointly hold the shares. For Marc, however, it turned out that a Joint Venture is when you team up with someone to promote their offerings to your community and get compensated for it.


You see, this is where the confusion starts, Marc and I clearly use a different dictionary. We work in a different environment; he mostly with solo entrepreneurs who are coaches, I mostly with medium and large international companies. So it is very understandable that we have a different dictionary. However, I have also experienced discussions where people from similar corporate environments appeared to have different dictionaries. In one discussion, an executive talked about joint ventures and described what other executives in the conversation actually called a strategic alliance. The kind of contractual strategic collaboration without creating a separate, jointly owned, entity.


What’s in a name?

So who is right, who uses the right name? Actually, that is the wrong question, because everyone is right! As I always clarify early on in an Alliance Masterclass, it is not about the name we use. What is important is that we are clear about what we mean. Clear about what we want to create together, and clear about how we want to do that. The clearer we are, the better we can create a solid foundation for a healthy business endeavor together!


Marc cleared a possible confusion very early on in his newsletter. In the second paragraph, he provided a very clear definition of what he meant with a Joint Venture. In the remainder of his 20-page newsletter, it was very clear what type of collaboration he was advocating.


Do as Marc when talking to your partners: be crystal clear!