By Jacqueline Camacho-Ruiz
It was a beautiful night in my hometown in Mexico. I was playing with my friends in the town plaza. Little did I know that my joyful play was about to be erupted by one of the most difficult times I have experienced.
“Your house is on fire Jackie, your house is on fire”- people yelled in the center of town. At first, I thought it was a joke. Then, it started to sink it. My house was really on fire! I remember my old sneakers being put to good use as I ran as fast as I could. They were right…the flames had engulfed my brick house. I could not believe it. I was just 12 years old.
Then a thought came to my mind…my books. Questions raced through my mind: “What if my books were burned?” “What if the books where I had learned the importance of connecting and serving others as a way to build success were burned?” As the neighbors continue to help us extinguish the fire with buckets of water, I kept thinking: “What if my books are burned? What am I going to do?”
After the fire subsided, my mom, brother and I walked in the house which was nothing more than smoldering ashes—Would that be right? I can vividly remember feeling the heat and seeing the devastation. Our hearts sank when we saw the little things we owned gone. Then, I look at the bookshelf…the dreaded moment had arrived. I look over at the bookshelf and realized that more than 80 percent of my books were burned. In that moment of devastation, I realized one of the most important lessons of my life: once you learn something, no one can take it away from you.
When I think of the success that I built with people, for people and through people, I think of those books from Dale Carnegie, Og Mandino and Zig Ziglar giving me the foundation. I think of how I can bring those principles to life every day by creating meaningful relationships and strategic alliances that make a difference.
Here are some things that I would like to share with you as you embark on the journey to create strategic alliances:
Align with companies that share your core values.
The cornerstone of creating alliances is the alignment of core values. If there is not connection of your beliefs, the alliance will not work. Some ways that you can do that is to advance the relationship slowly with multiple points of interaction to allow you to see their reaction, ask others for feedback about your strategic alliances and ask directly for examples of other situations where they have partnered up with another company. This is the most important element. Having core values is the number one reason why companies hire and fire people. This applies to alliances as well.
Have their best interest in mind.
Before reaching out to people who you have vetted as good strategic partners, it is important to think about how they will benefit. One of the reasons why my connections with strategic alliances have been so powerful is because I take the time to think of them first. I think about the idea or concept that I want to work with them on and how they will benefit first. Steven Covey said one time “that the definition of trust is the other feeling that you have their best interest in mind.” This is particularly important when creating new projects. The more you think about their benefit, the more successful the partnership will be.
Make time to strategize and plan.
Once you have defined the alliance and the benefit or benefits to that alliance, the next step is to strategize. What are the next steps? Who is doing what? What is required? What is the budget required? When will you begin the project? How long will it last? How will you monitor it? What are the roles in the project? The latter is of utmost importance to avoid confusion and resentment. You might even consider having the plan written out and signed by both parties to ensure full transparency and clarity.
Have a solid communication process and follow up plan.
It is common to begin a project with a lot of excitement, but the execution phase is the most important to ensure its full completion. Create a regular interval of communication via email, phone or in person. Make sure there you reset the expectations as needed if the scope of the project is altered due to unforeseen circumstances. Have the kind of trust and flexibility with your strategic alliance that allows you to make adjustments for a greater benefit to both. Honor those that help you achieve a project and do it again if it is successful.
This is how you build sustainable, solid strategic alliances.
Finally some examples:
An insurance company buys books from a local author to host an open house and book-signing event. What are the apparent benefits of this partnership? The insurance company gains an opportunity to reconnect with clients and prospects as well as community connection; the author gets the revenue from the books as well as the awareness in the community; and the marketing agency that connected them builds added value for both. It becomes a win-win-win situation.
A local financial company purchases a financial planner from a Kickstarter campaign to donate to a local university.
Again, what are the benefits of this partnership? The local financial company creates an opportunity to get positive community exposure and makes a difference in the lives of the students; the Kickstarter campaign organizer gains awareness for her product and revenue; and the students are empowered to take care of their finances. It’s another win-win-win situation.
By creating win-win (two strategic partners) or win-win-win (three strategic partners) situations through strategic alliances, your company does not only gain a positive reputation as a connection, but you, as the owner, will also become memorable to others and generate more business opportunities.
Think of at least two strategic partners that you can benefit this week and reach out to them to get the process started.