How do you choose to your collaborators?

Collaboration is a bit of a hot topic, and seen by many as the way forward for businesses. However, a  proper and productive long-term collaboration is the most complex and difficult relationship the two businesses are likely to have. So how do you choose your collaboration partners?

It’s entirely likely that more thought and analysis is put into choosing the photo-copier supplier. Procurement is a much simpler relationship where you have the upper hand and the parameters are well understood. But the risk/reward is much lower too. Pick the wrong photo-copier supplier and you have a minor document problem. Pick the wrong collaboration partner and you can have a potentially fatal business problem.

It’s not just simple matter of matching up resources and capabilities and seeing if there’s a fit. Collaborative relationships are about creating new opportunities and new businesses that are beyond the individual capabilities of the partners. They are about making the sum greater than the equal of the parts.

In a good collaboration, you need to have fair degree in common, and a significant amount that’s different. If you’re both the same, nothing happens. If you’re completely different, everything happens (and then nothing happens ever again!).

Think about what are the important things you need to agree on to make it work. That’s probably going to be to do with values, with quality of work, with the way you see the world. It could also be about personality – both of the companies and the individuals. To they complement each other? Or is there more conflict than is useful? Can you both see this still working in 10 years time?

Like any relationship, you need to give it time. “Marry in haste, repent at leisure”, goes the old saw. It’s more important than having the right photocopier.

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