Three Internal Obstacles You'll Face as Head of Partnerships, And How You Can Conquer Them

Three Internal Obstacles You'll Face as Head of Partnerships, And How You Can Conquer Them

Eric Sangerma 5 min

Over the past year, I’ve immersed myself in the partnerships community. I learned that the fractured and individualistic way we’ve been doing business isn’t sustainable. I pored over the statistics, exchanged insights and experiences, and started building relationships with potential partners.

In the process, I found out that I am exceptionally lucky.

From the get-go, my CEO and I have been in agreement about what partnerships would mean for the company. I’ve had the time and freedom to learn about best practices and experiment within our niche.

I considered and discarded potential partners who weren’t a good fit. My colleagues were happy to help with the specifics.

For too many people working in partnerships, all this sounds like a luxury. Regardless of their skill and knowledge levels, their success is hindered from within their own company.

Obstacle one: Management

Without consistent support from management, building partnerships can become an absurdist nightmare.

Understand: you can’t deliver improvements – such as increased revenue – within a rigid timeframe. It’s not always possible to provide tangible, specific results in the short term.

If management doesn’t accept that, you might be forced to make irrational compromises. Your negotiations may get stalled. Again and again, you’ll be asked to prove that partnerships aren’t a waste of time and money. But the less support you have from up top, the harder it gets to achieve anything at all.

That turns skepticism into a self-fulfilling prophecy. You can’t progress without management’s approval; your lack of progress means your efforts won’t get approved.

Obstacle two: Office politics

To deliver value to a partner (or a prospective partner), you need cooperation within your company. In theory, this could be a great opportunity to improve interdepartmental unity and communication.

But the reality is that different departments often have very different priorities. Your company might have a competitive culture where each team keeps a laser focus on their own goals and ignores everything else.

When you ask others to work with you, you may be met with evasions and delays. And if management isn’t behind you 100%, flat refusals are a possibility too.

Obstacle three: Burnout and stagnation

Other people’s doubts are something you can get used to. But there’s also the very real danger that you (or your team) will lose motivation.

Working in partnerships is a rewarding job — once you get to a certain level of success. Before that, it’s all too easy to get burned out.

One of the top causes of burnout is a perceived lack of control, meaning that you feel like nothing depends on you. That’s often the case when you’re trying to coordinate a project involving partners, management, and other departments.

Add to that:

  • The lack of clear deadlines or success milestones
  • A constant influx of new information about ecosystems
  • Ever-shifting demands from both partners and coworkers

It’s not surprising that you might feel unmotivated or even get frozen in place. And the less support you get from other teams and from management, the harder it gets to keep going.

What’s the solution?

You already know the key PartnerHacker Principle: partnerships isn’t a department, it’s a strategy.

I’ll take that a step further. Building partnerships isn’t a problem that needs solving; it’s a solution to the problems you already have.

That’s the attitude that’ll remove those internal roadblocks and carry you forward. But how to implement it in practice?

Start with yourself and work from there.

Put in the time and energy to maintain relationships with the partnerships community. Even if you’re the only person in your company who cares about promoting partnerships, there are others out there who understand your position. Seek them out, get to know them, be honest about your issues and pay attention to theirs. Partnerships experts are usually happy to share the practical knowledge you need to avoid big pitfalls. Talking to peers and mentors will also help reduce that beginner’s burnout.

Start addressing existing pain points within your company. Along with leading partnerships, I’m the Head of Marketing at Simplesat. It was immediately clear to me that each new partnership provides us with co-marketing opportunities — and more than that. I reworked our marketing strategy from the ground up, and we started saving time and money. We get more eyes on our brand, and we have a more solid direction for future campaigns.

Approach other departments and find out what they need. Show them you can help them reach their KPIs. It turns out that the partnerships-compatible approach I use for Marketing translates wonderfully to Sales as well. Through open dialogue with other departments, I learned what to focus on when negotiating partnerships. My coworkers have recognized the potential in sharing resources and leads with our partners.

Keep finding allies by asking “what can I do for you?” This is the key to making partnerships take off in a more competitive, dog-eats-dog office culture. In time, you can improve communication between departments and break down information silos. But in the immediate future, keep the focus on solving existing problems.

Be proactive about demonstrating your wins to management. As partnerships become a part of day-to-day operations across departments, it will become clear that they have to be included in your company’s overall strategy. Your longer-term plans will start receiving recognition after that.

Don’t surrender to stagnation

Partnerships are still a new way of looking at the business world. Promoting this change can be disheartening at times. The partnerships community might be driven by optimism, but we all run out of steam at times.

If that happens to you, take a moment to regroup. Find the people who are in your corner already. Approach any detractors with patience and determination. Time will show that partnerships are necessary for your company’s survival; your job is to keep improving the odds until then.

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Eric Sangerma 5 min

Three Internal Obstacles You'll Face as Head of Partnerships, And How You Can Conquer Them

For too many people working in partnerships, all this sounds like a luxury. Regardless of their skill and knowledge levels, their success is hindered from within their own company.

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