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"Lots of people play the notes as well as I do. It's how I play the space in between, the White Space'" -- Arthur Rubinstein



# 2 - Create Alignment for the Business

In our March article we talked about interviewing prospective partners as part of the process for finding and choosing the right business partners. This article talks about creating business alignment, a critical step in laying a strong foundation to a vital partnership. In this article we will discuss how to create partnership alignment.

Alignment means that success in business includes success in the lives of the individual partners, i.e. how the personal and business goals and expectations of each partner align with those of the other partner, as well as with those of the business itself. One of the problems most frequently found in troubled partnerships is that of mismatched expectations. To help avoid trouble, you need to develop a clear vision, mission and original goals, a set of working values (including operational responsibilities) as well as an initial roadmap of how you are going to get there. Partners should also discuss work styles, ambitions and strategies for exiting your venture. Start the process by asking each of the participants what questions they want to hear the answers to. Below are samples of questions we have used in our work:

  • What is your vision (how we want to change the world and benefit your customers) and mission and goals (business plan) for the company one year, three years and five years from now.
  • What does success look like for the company and for you?
  • What are our individual and collective strengths and weaknesses, in terms of experiences, know-how, know-who, know-what, likes and dislikes?
  • Do the criteria above complement each other?
  • What is the budget? When will the partners be able to expect salaries or other income?
  • Do all parties understand what owning equity means? Are there alternative strategies for rewarding equity participants that do or do not impact voting?
  • What will the company need long term, in terms of people and capital needs and would you be willing to give up your position (employee, investor etc.) for that?
  • Will we engage a board of advisors or directors and what will their authority be?
  • Who owns what intellectual property?

These are questions that people rarely take the time to discuss, but they are crucial points that new partners should be exploring in order to get everybody on the same page and to promote synergy.

Find a trusted facilitator to work with you in designing the questions and having the conversation. All of the partners with whom we have had the honor of working before starting their business operations have been delighted with the results. Seriously, most of us are not accustomed to talking about these matters. The time and effort that people spend in preparing for a partnership can help you see the white elephants that may exist. Yes - an ounce of prevention can save a pound of cure by addressing assumptions, resolving misunderstandings and thus saving many costly missteps.

You may reprint all or part of this article, forward it to your customers and colleagues, or post it on your website. Please keep the copyright and contact information intact, like this: Copyright 2011, Momentum. 

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