Trying to achieve something great often requires more than just a handful of individuals. More often than not, it needs several bucketloads of passionate individuals who work hand in hand.
But how do you bring together people of various interests?
1. Understand what everyone’s interests are.
It’s critical to understand what their focus is. Are they in the middle of doing a branding exercise? How are their sales like? What are their sets of metrics? An alliance has to be about mutual benefit so it’ll be pointless if you bring to the table something they don’t give a rat’s ass about. This is especially so if in the process of working together, the partners actually have to pump in resources(time, money, etc…)
2. Know what the underlying passion is.
Ok. This may sound similar to the point above but here, i’m referring more to the ‘life’ goals of the people you’re trying to partner. You see, people often think that business is about money. It’s not. It’s about some grander vision that the founders and the executive team have. And if you’re trying to form an alliance(and probably lead it), then it is absolutely necessary that you know what makes them tick. If money is all they’re after, I say cut and run. Why? Because an alliance is about trust and cooperation especially in the harsh moments. And in business harsh moments are usually characterised by some form of lack of money.
3. Keep communication channels open
Always keep talking to your partners. The lack of information makes people jumpy and makes for poorer decision making. Plus, if you form an alliance and don’t keep in touch often, what’s the point? Formalise these channels if necessary. I realise one neat way of doing it is on Skype. The group conversation feature allows one to bring in many people and have a sort of a persistent chatroom. People can come and go anytime but everyone will be kept up to date with the discussions that transpired in their absence.
4. Don’t be too calculative
An alliance is long-term so don’t expect immediate returns. Be generous with the referrals and help. Don’t try to implement those trade balances that measure surplus/deficit in your head…it’ll only lead to a lot of unnecessary disatisfaction and mistrust.
That said, still do have some form of time horizon to measure the effectiveness of the alliance for everyone. If it’s not working out for yourself or for anyone else, find out why? You must know what is happening.
5. Stay human
I think this is the heart of any business. Great businesses are in the unique position of affecting lives – workers, clients, partners, etc… Always remember that everyone you come into contact with is a human being. And just like being in the military, your alliance will at various points feel disheartened, overly-excited, totally depressed, etc. Provide them with right amount of slack and/or inspiration. You basically want people to be willing cover your ass…so treat them well.
All that said, of course there are more formal ways of building alliances…signing memorandums of understanding and stuff. But i’m not going to touch on those because it’s a very boring technical process. I prefer to look at the human aspect of things.