For someone who works, pretty much exclusively, on her own, and quite happily - I love building partnerships.
It's the coming together of like-minded people, and businesses with similar aims, who can go on as a joint force to improve the lives of even more clients than we might have done alone, that gets me feeling both proud and invigorated.
And lord knows, when you work alone, you need all the invigoration you can get some weeks... ;)
So. How can you build great partnerships?
1. Be sure you have the same vision and ethos. I've just mentioned the idea of shared aims, and you'd think this was a given - but not so. Sometimes we can get carried away with the idea of working with someone, purely because we admire them or it's a bit of a business coup; but we really should only be interested in working in partnership with someone with whom we have a shared vision and ethos. If you're running a social enterprise, and you're looking at working with a company that could give Gordon Gekko a run for his money on the 'greed is good' front, then you might want to think again.
How will you reconcile those differences? Be clear on that before you even think about moving forwards.
2. Play to both parties strengths - and work on the weaknesses. In any partnership there'll be strengths and there'll be weaknesses. The trick is to identify the strengths, and play to them; and identify the weaknesses and work on them. We can't all be good at everything (no matter how much we try) but we can be realistic. If you're not good at something, and neither is your prospective partners, then find someone who is. Don't leave the weaknesses to fester and become a problem.
3. Define roles and accountability. Who's responsible for what? Easy to identify when it's your company, under your roof, and under your control but not so when it's a joint enterprise. Clarify each parties roles, responsibilities, and ultimate accountability up front and be sure that you regularly check you're where you need to be. If not? Work on it together, in line with your agreed roles.
4. Handle any problems early. We all know what it's like when we work with someone and problems start. If we handle it early on, and honestly, it gets solved quickly and with minimal fuss. Leave it to become a massive problem, and...well, you know what happens then.
From staff issues to working practice niggles; always, always deal with any problems the minute they arise. That way you can head off bigger, more serious problems and concentrate on the important stuff - making your business partnership a huge success.