The power of partnerships
Giving critical appraisal can be a tough ask – one that Peter Rijsdijk knows all about. As a business advisor and partner at Thexton Armstrong, Peter has to get down and critical on a daily basis as he supports a number of entrepreneurs to develop and grow in a changing and challenging workplace. The first few client meetings are always the most critical first steps on a journey towards long and happy partnerships and honesty is always the best policy.
“You need to have that neutral advisor,” says Peter. “Someone like me, for example, who doesn’t know you to talk you through it honestly. Collaboration is a very important step and it must be the right one. So, let us talk about your vision, both personal and business, and your goals; what kind of partnership are you looking at? When forming partnerships entrepreneurs have to be able to share their goals, they have to understand each other well and work together to achieve the partnership they both want. This is where someone like me would come in – you need a matchmaker who can help you progress from a position of ‘I want’ into thinking “partnerships.”
Questions, questions, questions
In a Covid-recovering world with unpredictable economies, collaboration has become one of the buzzword for growth in purpose-led partnerships and Peter, who also works with the Wyseminds’ team, is a specialist in preparing and guiding businesses through mergers and acquisitions.
“Entrepreneurs ask advisors like me to help them when they’re looking for partnerships in business. They’re looking for independent experts to listen and pose the right questions. It’s likely they have already invested emotionally, but before they commit formally, they need a critical eye cast over their proposals.”
This is not always easy, however, but as many mergers advisors find, it comes down to asking the right questions and – in some cases – being challenging or ‘playing devil’s advocate’.
“Of course advisors and entrepreneurs can occasionally fall out, temporarily of course. Sometimes it’s needed. Entrepreneurs ask us to be critical and therefore we’re allowed to ask ‘do you really want that?’ ‘Is that the right direction for you?’ Being neutral really is an advantage in this situation.”
Getting to know you…
Peter’s first piece of advice is as old as the hills, or at least familiar to those of us who have seen friends and loved ones rush into marrying the wrong person: in other words, get to know each other first before you commit.
“Many entrepreneurs know each other through networking or in a B2B relationship, but going into partnership is a whole new situation. Before they cement this new co-venture in an absolutely formal structure, they need to spend time accepting each other, working together as a team. They think that if they’ve known each other for ten years in a business environment that they really ‘know’ each other and have the same vision but that is not always true. There’s a big difference between what you say and your vision and what you do and how you do it together.”
Sage advice, but why do companies seek partnerships at this moment ?
“Most entrepreneurs are looking for knowledge and innovation in preparing for future growth. However, currently it’s even more about sharing the costs and planning for greater resilience from the unknown. Many seek partnerships because they’re too small and if they join together with someone else they’ll have a better proposition to bring to their customer. This is not a substitute for investment; that is still necessary, too.“
One to 100
Once up and running, the first 100 days are vital for new partnerships.
“It can be very exciting,” says Peter, “and you mustn’t get carried away and lose the point of why you’re together. It’s important to discuss the tough topics and to ask again and again: why are we working together? Why are we doing this? Talk about your shared purpose and shared values. Purpose must be at the forefront.” You are setting the scene for the future and like with any relationship it needs constant nurture.
What makes a pairing perfect?
As many married couples discover, passion is different from lust and for successful partnerships to last and be fruitful, there are a number of vital components required, namely, yes, passion, but also energy, shared values and communication.
“We always ask both parties to be clear about purpose and direction,” says Peter. “If you talk about those two aspects and they are able to give the whole team a very clear direction and let them see what the purpose is, it will be enormously beneficial.
“Communication is so important and both entrepreneurs need to talk about value creation. Things don’t have to be perfect but there has to be energy and vision. Of course, each person has his or her own check points, but you should be able to say ‘OK, after three months we will do this’ and ‘after six months we will do that’. And if you are not communicating, it’s likely that you will not reach the goals you’re striving for. That is when the entrepreneur must be critical and talk through how things are not working the way they want.”
This is easier said than done in some cases as Peter wryly remarks.
“Entrepreneurs are passionate about what they do and what they stand for, but they are not necessarily used to working with other people. It can be challenging to work with others. However, if you can’t, partnerships soon go wrong. This is where communication comes in. If you communicate with your team, you can learn from each other. You don’t have to do everything yourself!”
It’s not all about the money
What? Not all about the money? Well, that’s not strictly true, but there are ways to make money and keep money. Once on the road to successful collaboration, Peter offers one last piece of advice.
“Don’t just think about profit! Your growth must be sustainable – if you do that, you’ll have reserves for a long time.”
To misquote the great Warren Buffett, there’s nothing wrong with getting rich slowly.