Kick-starting an Alliance

You decide not to try to do it yourself. Now can you close the deal?

You found a terrific partner that promised to boost your capacity, open new markets, or enhance your brand equity faster and better than you could alone, at the same cost. But you can’t come to terms on an agreement.

Ask yourself:

Are the right leaders at the table? Are they empowered—by the board, senior leadership, investors—to negotiate to closure in a timely way? Do they have the knowledge to speak credibly to the issues?

Have both parties agreed on or, better yet, collaborated on creating a common frame of reference for the negotiation?  Do you have clear guiding principles that establish the context and vision for the partnership? Are the discussion settings and allotted time conducive to exploration? Is a neutral party (not legal counsel representing either side) present to help keep the negotiation moving?

Have you aligned on clear expectations that will produce returns beyond what either party could achieve alone—1+1=3? If not, have you explored all the areas of possible collaboration? Considering all the dimensions of the alliance—strategic, financial, operational, and cultural—where are the greatest strengths and gaps?

How do you view the negotiation? Do you consider it a legalistic effort to secure a contract favorable to your side or a codification of the shared risks and rewards that marks the start of a business arrangement flexible enough to adapt to circumstances?

Have you defined realistic, scenario-based exit provisions upfront? Have you considered triggering events, valuation methods, future ownership models, post-exit links, and post-exit restrictions in your consideration of exit scenarios?