Tip 5: Create a Contributions Matrix

“Those who forget to prepare are preparing themselves to be forgotten.” This is a popular saying among coaches and productivity gurus, although I’m not even sure if it’s an official adage. If you forget to prepare to do your work, you are preparing yourself to be forgotten by those you work with.

The same is true for partnerships and alliances. In every step you make with a partner or prospective partner, you need to prepare carefully. You need to prepare to get the best out of the steps you make. You need to prepare to get the best for you, for your partner, and for your customers. You need to prepare to make a lasting impression with your partner and be remembered, even when you decide not to pursue the joint partnership.

In the previous tip, we talked about answering the question “What’s in it for me?” The answer is this: You have to create a contributions, needs and benefits matrix.

A contributions, needs and benefits matrix is an extremely helpful tool you can use to get ready with your meetings with your partner, including your very first formal meeting as potential partners. This matrix is basically a 3×3 chart as shown in the example below. In the matrix, you simply list the contributions you will bring to the partnership, as well as the contributions you will expect from your partner.

Additionally, you should also list down the needs you expect the partnership to meet for it to be successful. You also assess what you feel your partner will need and list these too.

Finally, you write down what the partnership will bring in terms of benefits – benefits to you, your partner, and your customer.

This matrix will create an overview of how the partnership is balanced. It will provide a definitive answer to the question everyone will be looking at first: “What’s in it for me?” 

What is the best way to use the contributions matrix? The answer to that is simple: Come prepared to the meeting by doing your homework. Fill in the matrix before the meeting with your view of the partnership. Then, during the meeting, discuss the matrix with your partner and adjust it where needed. This will help create clarity quickly. It will also help you build trust with your partner. In every other stage of a partnership creation, openness and transparency are needed for this document to become a joint document between you and your partner.

When done right, the contributions matrix will easily turn into a joint document that will help build the foundation of your partnership. Of course, you may be looking to build a light but solid partnership without too many documents. Even so, you will always need two basic documents. One of these should be the contribution matrix, the other one being your business or action plan for the partnership.

The contributions matrix provides you with the bigger picture of what your partnership is supposed to be. It will also help create the foundation of your partnership, as well as the trust between you and your partner.


I will publish my ebook “25 tips for successful Partnerships and Alliances” in parts here on my website. Every other week a tip from the book will be shared, in the weeks in between I will publish my regular column. If you prefer to read the tips in the ebook faster rather than wait a full year then click here to purchase your own copy of the book.

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