Preparation & Trust - Advancing Strategic Partnerships

Men often oppose a thing merely because they have had no agency in planning it, or because it may have been planned by those whom they dislike”.  – Andrew Hamilton

I’m currently listening to the e-book “Andrew Hamilton” by Ron Chernow to learn more about one of Americas first entrepreneurs.  I heard this quote and it immediately got me thinking how relevant it is to so many aspects of my life from both a professional and personal perspective.  I was immediately struck by the clear connection it has to the work I’m currently doing on strategic partnerships and the many instances where I’ve seen this scenario play out in the past.

The concepts of Planning & Trust highlighted by Andrew Hamilton are both foundational elements to strategic partnerships.  At a minimum, the absence of either makes it far more likely that a strategic partnership will not reach its full potential, and at worst, the partnership will fail all-together.

Let’s explore this a bit further.


My professional experiences have shown me that those relationships built on a foundation of underlying trust lead to much more collaboration and far greater mutual value creation for both sides.  Relationships void of this trust can achieve success, but it requires far greater effort.  For example, a recent client was seeking to establish a more strategic relationship with a dominant market player.  However, they never trusted the other company and refused to share information that could have led to a joint business opportunity that would have benefitted both.  Over time, the partnership failed to reach its potential.

Trust isn’t built over night so it’s’ important to make it a priority from the very beginning.

So, what might we do to intentionally build trust with our existing or new/emerging strategic relationships?

1.     Listen to understand – It is important that you seek to understand others perspectives and how that shapes their strategies, priorities, interests and needs.

2.     Share information – This goes both ways but it starts with you setting the example.

3.     Show respect – Expect the same from your team and those you engage with.

4.     Spend time getting to know those that you are working with on a more personal level.

Simple right?  At face value, these are incredibly basic concepts but the art is in actually taking the time to do them.  Too many times in today’s business environment we immediately jump into problem solving mode without having taken time to understand the other side and where our time is best spent.  This may mean going a bit slower at first with the understanding that your building towards a long, meaningful relationship primed to transform how you work together!


 Preparing for a strategic partnership seems pretty straightforward, right?

The reality is that preparation is underappreciated and the importance isn’t always understood.  Today, we are all under great pressure to move quickly and don’t always prepare like we should.  The truth of the matter is that every ounce of energy you put into preparation will lead to a much better outcome.  However, it’s not about blindly jumping into preparation for a speech, an event, an interaction or a negotiation.

You actually need to plan your preparation activities.  What should I prepare?  How will I do it?  Who will do what? How much time will I invest?  How will I work with my internal stakeholders and external partners to make sure we’re all prepared and aligned?

Want some thoughts on the most important components to successful preparation?  I’ve got a few.

1.     Collaboratively align with your strategic partners on what you want to achieve in your interactions – There’s nothing worse than two organizations preparing for a meeting with two completely different agendas and objectives.

2.     Internally align and prioritize your needs and interests in engaging with the other – Seek to understand their needs and interests.

3.     Commit the appropriate time and resources and ask your partners to do the same – Push back the meeting if this isn’t feasible on the current timeline (Go slow, to move fast).

4.     Hold yourself, your team and your partners accountable to deliverables.

5.     Only prepare information relevant to the discussion – Maintain focus.

Building Trust and Preparation aren’t rocket science but they are hard work.  They’ve been the foundation of great partnerships forever but far too often not enough emphasis is placed on either. 

You can’t always control how others come to the table but you can control the following:

  • Always seek to be the person that people want to work with by spending the necessary time to build greater trust
  • Always protect time and put in the necessary time to fully prepare

Have your experiences taught you something different or do you have similar experiences worth sharing?  I would love to know!