Partner is a Verb

At the beginning of the year, I wrote about my career-changing resolution.  It's not the only revelation that's affected my career, however.  One of the other big ones is that partnering is really important, but it takes effort to make it work.

Let's face it, you need help.  In some way, shape, or form, you need others to work with you to accomplish something bigger than you can do by yourself.  One way to accomplish that is to pay them.  Once you make it big (or if you raise money), then you can pay someone to do what you want.  Before you reach that point, though, your best bet is to partner with others.

Designing a partnership is easy: you identify a set of mutual goals and a division of labor and you're ready.  It could be a developer who needs some design work, a consultant that needs some development work, or whatever.  The key to the design is to make the payoff greater than the opportunity cost of the work.  Design is easy because it's pretty objective: If you do x, you get y.

Implementing a partnership is really, really hard because it's very subjective.  The problem is that people don't simply work, they work with other people.  That means that in order to partner, they have to both trust and, to some degree, like you.  Not just like you, but like the way that you work, which means that they need to see how you work, which means: work.  Even if you design what you think is a brilliant partnering arrangement, if the others involved don't like the way you work they might just walk because they don't believe that if they do x then they'll actually get y.

I saw a perfect example this morning.  I had a meeting with a company that I'm partnering with.  We had discussed the project in February and even though I had worked on it a little, there was a chance of it stalling.  That didn't happen, though, because they put forth the effort of scheduling a meeting to keep things moving along.  During the meeting, they asked a few times, "What do we need to do to make this happen?"  This clear indication that they were putting forth the effort necessary to move things along reinforced my belief and enthusiasm in the project and with them.  My plan now is to follow suit and reinforce their belief and enthusiasm in the project and me.

My point in all of this is that it is easy to fall into the trap of identifying and designing partnering opportunities only to see them wither on the vine.  No matter how jazzed you are after your first meeting, it still takes effort to maintain your momentum so you should be ready to put forth that effort if you ever want to capitalize on the opportunities that you've created.

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