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The powers combined

Businesses are constantly asking themselves how they can gain the edge on their competitors. The harsh reality is – many do not possess the knowledge, skills or resources to compete with their larger rivals – at least not in the short term. Exploring the possibilities of forming a strategic partnership with another entity can offer quick access to those complimentary talents and resources needed to create a more formidable force in the marketplace.

Forming an alliance that allows both parties to achieve mutually advantageous objectives is fundamental to this strategy. Typically, these partnerships  are characterised by the exchange of services and skills that are different yet related, sharing benefits and burdens alike. These could include: sharing of technology, co-funding of projects and marketing one another’s products, to name only a few.

The announcement made today by iStock by Getty Images about its decision to partner with Dropbox is a great example of how this works. As a result of this partnership, customers can now instantly access licensed assets across all their devices by auto-syncing with Dropbox. Although distinct in their services and customer base, the alliance has cleverly leveraged one another’s technology to deliver a joint ‘workflow enhancement’ to market.

It all sounds like a no brainer, however here are five points to consider before forming your partnership.

Agree on your respective contributions
A partnership is not a merger therefore both parties are not obliged to pool all resources. What each are prepared to bring to the table and how the sharing arrangement will be executed needs to be thoroughly outlined.

Ensure both parties’ strategic objectives are aligned
Each party must be clear on what they expect to get out of the relationship. While iStock today secured a valuable service upgrade, Dropbox improved its own functionality with both expanding their potential customer base.

“Customers increasingly move from screen to screen, creating and consuming content at a faster pace than ever before,” said Grant Farhall, Senior Director of Product/E-commerce at iStock by Getty Images.

Alex Castellarnau, Head of Design at Dropbox said “With iStock’s premium content and our collaboration network, individuals and businesses can concentrate less on content management and more on creating amazing things together.”

Are your values aligned?
A successful partnership cannot be hampered by ongoing discussions on how to conduct business. For example, if one side of the relationship is motivated by short-term financial gains while the other adopts a more customer-centric approach, clashes could soon be realised.

Create a clear decision-making framework
Whatever is decided from the outset, inevitably, things change. Market conditions change and there will be unforeseen obstacles to overcome. It’s important to understand how decisions will be made and by whom so the alliance can act quickly when the time comes.

Ensure the partnership represents an equal ‘win’ for both sides.
Be confident that both sides have as much to gain from the relationship as the other. If this is not the case, both parties will suffer. While one side may be smiling more than the other in the initial stages, this will soon turn upside down when efforts from the other side dwindle.