This is Thanksgiving week in the U.S., and taking a little time away from work helps put us in a more thoughtful mood.  Even grateful, I find.

Apparently this has been the month for partnerships.  I’ve had multiple discussions about this with my clients, and have taken steps in my own business to form new supporting relationships for my business in 2014.

Here’s how I look at partnerships:


Quite simply, it’s where your goals and someone else’s align, so you decide to invest in working together.  But the implications of this concept are MUCH more interesting than it might first appear.

Notice that I’ve placed a big black boundary around the area of overlap.  This is intentional, because I’ve seen too many cases where one partner attempts to control the other outside what’s fair.

For instance, having a job might be modeled as a partnership.  The employee has the goal of doing useful and interesting work and getting paid for it.  The employer needs useful and interesting work done, and is willing to give fair pay, so we have alignment of goals.  But the employer usually doesn’t have the right to control the employee’s non-work time or activities, unless it’s agreed up front that this is a defined part of the job.  There’s a lot of discussion and tension around these kinds of employment issues right now, and it’s partly due to a changing understanding of the boundaries of the partnership.

Notice too that I’ve talked about alignment of GOALS.  There’s a lot of other things we might align around – payment, deliverables, activities, and so on.  But it’s really the alignment of goals which drives all the other things.  If you and I are just trading goods for payment, then it might be overblown to invest in it as a partnership.

Because it takes significant effort to set up and maintain a productive partnership, you want them to stay around long-term.    Whenever you change partners, there’s a good chance that you’ll have to expend a lot of energy, and your customers may even be impacted.  As a result, it’s good to invest in some deeper thinking and planning.  It’s likely that you’ll have to (and want to) live with your decision for years or even decades.

I have a handful of key business partners that I rely on, and I’m grateful for how they support me in building my success.  And I strive to help them build their success as well.