In the realm of partnerships, navigating the intricate dance between commercial objectives and company values is both an art and a science. This delicate (but often underestimated) balance is key to the success of any company’s partnerships program. And since up to 70% of business partnerships ultimately fall apart, you’ll want to do everything you can to make sure your partnerships succeed.

CEO and Co-Founder of Firneo Scott Pollack and experienced social impact/partnerships leader Nicolas Alexander recently explored this nuanced topic during a Partner School event. Nicolas is currently employed as the Chief Growth Officer for Thallo; previously, he worked as a consultant for UNICEF and spent four years as a UK representative to the United Nations in Geneva. In his Partner School interview, Nicolas shared valuable advice for partnerships pros seeking to build relationships that align with their employers’ values.

Understanding Company Values and Commercial Parameters

Nicolas kicked things off by explaining how alignment between commercial terms and company values can ensure the sustainability and longevity of a partnership. He likens company values to a “north star”—a guiding beacon that informs decision-making and shapes organizational culture. Company values encompass internal culture, external relationships, and overarching objectives that reflect how a company operates, treats its stakeholders, and defines its purpose in the world.

On the other hand, commercial parameters represent the practical means through which companies achieve their goals in the business landscape. They encompass the tangible aspects of partnerships—contracts, revenue goals, strategic alliances, and market dynamics. While company values remain relatively constant, commercial needs evolve over time, meaning alignment between the two is imperative for cohesive and enduring partnerships.

Executives and Partnership Alignment

While partnerships leaders certainly play a role in keeping commercial terms and values aligned, this responsibility is not theirs alone. Instead, executives must also take this process seriously.

To this end, Nicolas expressed the need for clear mission charters and shared values at the organizational level. For their partnerships programs to succeed, leaders must navigate conflicting objectives and set priorities based on their agreed-upon principles.

Navigating Conflicts Between Value and Values

During the interview, Nicolas offered examples of how company values and commercial terms can clash. As part of this, he shared a scenario involving a potentially lucrative partnership opportunity with a carbon credits entity.

Despite the promise of financial gain, this partnership was abandoned because it conflicted with the other company’s mission and ethical standards. To avoid situations like this, partnerships leaders must closely scrutinize potential partners and ensure their alignment in ways that go beyond surface-level agreements.

How Partnerships Pros Can Ensure Alignment

Nicolas went on to outline strategies partnership pros can use to discern alignment in the early stages of their partnerships. He emphasized the importance of evaluating both the individuals within a company and the impact of its products or services. 

By observing the integrity of company representatives and assessing the ethical implications of their offerings, partnerships leaders can gauge alignment with their organization’s values. However, Nicolas acknowledged that such assessments require time and diligence, underscoring the need for ongoing vigilance in partnership endeavors.

Adapting to Changing Dynamics

Scott and Nicolas then touched on the evolving nature of partnerships and the challenges posed by shifting commercial priorities. Nicolas highlighted the impact of external factors (such as fundraising rounds and market fluctuations) on partnership dynamics. 

As companies navigate changes like these, transparency and communication are paramount. Nicolas advocated for clear communication and alignment with partners to mitigate potential conflicts and maintain trust amid changing circumstances.

Lessons Learned From Partnerships

Finally, Scott closed the discussion by seeking examples of successful partnerships and cautionary tales. While Nicolas refrained from naming specific instances, he did stress the importance of transparency and ethical conduct in fostering fruitful collaborations. He also warned against partnerships built on deception or short-term gains, advocating for integrity and alignment as guiding principles.

Achieving Perfect Alignment with Firneo

Aligning commercial parameters with company values is not a one-size-fits-all process, but a nuanced undertaking that requires continuous evaluation and adaptation. Nicolas’s insights should illuminate the delicate balance needed to overcome this challenge. By fostering alignment with company values and emphasizing communication, organizations can forge enduring partnerships that drive mutual success while upholding their integrity and purpose.

Though the interaction between corporate values and commercial parameters plays a vital role in partnerships programs, this isn’t the only concept partnerships pros need to understand in order to excel in this field. Instead, you’ll need to know how to do everything from getting buy-in from important stakeholders to prioritizing the partners that matter most. 

At Firneo, we specialize in providing quality education to people in the partnerships industry—and you can get started by enrolling in our Mastering Partnerships Strategy course!

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