10 Tips for a Successful (International) Business Collaboration

1. Align your partnering strategy with your general strategy 
Partnerships can be used for developing innovative products, for getting new channels towards your clients, or to acquire economies of scale. Focus on type of partner that best supports your competitive strategy and disregard other partnering opportunities. 

2. Present yourself in an attractive way 
Just as in real life, your will have a better choice in partners if you are attractive to collaborate with. Clearly formulate your strengths, your ambitions and how you want to approach the partnership.

3. Don't jump into the arms of the first partner that comes along 
If you make known that you are looking for collaborations, the first partner that comes along might be the partner that will have the most to gain from the partnership. Therefore use a structured way for finding a partner, through your network, or -in case of international partnerships- through local intermediaries. 

4. Determine the benefit for the partner 
A partnership should be a win-win, so what's the gain for your partner? Why would a partner work with you, instead of with one of your competitors? If you keep that in mind, the partnership will be more balanced.

5. Learn from similar partnerships 
Your partnership is unique, but certain aspects and the basic form might be similar to a lot of existing partnerships in your industry. What are best practices in these cases that you can apply to your specific situation? 

6. Negotiate yourself 
Always negotiate yourself about business aspects such as scope, fees and responsibilities. Only bring in the lawyers after setting the outlines of the deal. This will save you time and legal costs, but will also help to better understand your partner, which is especially important in international partnerships. 

7. Prepare to divorce even before the wedding 
Before signing the partnering agreement, decide how each of the parties can end the alliance. Especially when setting up a new legal entity it might seem easier to leave this open, but it will cause all kinds of tension in the collaboration. 

8. Invest in the start 
Spend time to update the people that haven't been involved in the negotiations about the purpose, structure and contractual arrangements of the alliance. In international partnerships, also explain about cultural differences and communication style. 

9. Measure the progress 
The first financial results will in most cases only be visible after half a year or more. Don't loose time to correct and measure predictive indicators such as communication, planning and trust. 

10. Train your people 
Managing a partnership or collaboration is a profession in itself and also the people involved in the daily operations need to know how to handle collaboration across the border of the company. Benchmarks and training can help.

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