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Creating Fitness Business Alliances As Part of Your Boot Camp Marketing Plan

Fitness Boot Camp Marketing deals with acquiring new clients, and it can be an exhausting job. But what if I informed you that there was a single technique that could be considered as close to a shortcut towards gaining several new clients as a marketing professional could ever hope for? And as a major bonus, it probably a means that it is several times cheaper than the bulk of the other elements needed in a boot camp marketing campaign.

This concept is called “strategic alliances” and it is centered on the pretense that you are able to establish a special relationship with the many other local businesses that will benefit all involved. This means you can take proper advantage of all the time and money that can be spent acquiring new clients and, in exchange, you provide them to do the same with you.

There are a great many ways you can achieve this and step one deals with acquiring a list of local businesses that deliver the kind of clients you would prefer, but are not direct competitors with you. Those that work in the fitness, health, wellness or personal training professions realize this means other business that provide service to customers that want to improve their overall health and appearance will be willing to invest money to make the end result occurs. For example, you could compile a definitive list of local health food stores, beauty salons, public accountants, spas, cosmetic surgeons, or massage therapists. It is possible to procure this list of businesses by simply opening up your local yellow pages, contacting your chamber of commerce, or even the better business bureau:

Dear (Business Owner),

I would like to offer you a means of getting several new customers at no expense to your business. I am a respected (chiropractor/ fitness professional/ martial arts instructor) in the local area and am currently developing a promotion that I believe will greatly benefit your business as a result.

All you need to do to get involved is to send me a special offer that I can provide to clients. You could offer them a half-off deal or other such promotional offer. It really can be anything that will entice others to try your service. I’ll offer a special like this to someone at my business or other local businesses.

I will contact you at (day and time) to discuss this matter further with you. And do not worry. I’m absolutely not soliciting advertising. I just think this arrangement would be mutually beneficial to all involved. (End)

Because there is a great benefit to such a venture and so little cost associated with it, there will typically be a very high percentage of business owners that will respond to such an offer. You should put all these offers in a notebook along with a short description of what the business is all about in addition to offer. Such booklets can be employed to print up in a fairly cheap method for just about any copy and print place. (This is a huge boom for boot camp fitness marketing pros!) On the cover, the booklet should clearly promote the positives of the total value of the promotions inside. When you send enough offers out to enough business, it may turn out to be fairly easy for the promotions to be valued at over $1000.

Give a few these booklets to all of the participating businesses and inform the proprietors that they can purchase more if they so choose. Just be sure the price covers the cost of printing. Now all participating businesses, including your own, will work with a powerful promotional tool. Your print ads can even say something like “All new clients get $1000 in discounts and special offers from businesses in your neighborhood”.”

Plus, every time a participating business procures a new customer and is given the booklet, the ability to land a potentially lifelong customer is possible.

How to Build Better Business Alliances

Judging by the popularity of instant message programs, chat
rooms, and discussion forums, it would seem logical to
conclude that people enjoy interacting with one another in
an almost anonymous, virtual environment. Although people
enjoy the anonymity they still crave attention and
relationships with other people. Sometimes, the internet is
so impersonal, and cold that getting a nice email from an
actual person that doesn’t want your money is almost

People especially enjoy interacting with those of similar
interests. Why not use this to the advantage of your
business? Internet marketers don’t usually have anybody in
their lives that shares the same passion. And, as a whole,
Internet marketers are very passionate about what they do
and love discussing it with others who share that same
passion. By creating friendships with other online
marketers in your niche you open yourself up to a world of

The ability to build an alliance with someone powerful and
successful in your field is literally priceless. A lot of
businesses survive on their contacts alone. With a good
contact you open up to joint ventures, exchange of
information and ideas. Affiliate partnerships, market
research, years of experience, links to your site These
friendly contacts, all which are call “alliances,” can
provide you with the leverage that you need, not only to
learn quickly, but to market your product to large
audiences of people fast.

Having an alliance is many times better than just proposing
a joint venture to someone for several reasons. First, a
joint venture proposal to someone you don’t know will be
treated with so much skepticism that your chances are slim
to none. Whereas getting a JV proposal from a trusted
contact whom you have been exchanging emails with regularly
for a couple weeks will get much more consideration.
Building up a friendly alliance with someone online is a
lot like making friends in the real world. People don’t
like to be badgered, they don’t like know it alls, they
don’t like back-stabbers, they don’t like needy people, and
they don’t like it if you follow them around and use up
their time.

It is recommended contacting someone for the first time via
a short email. Compliment their site, explain who you are,
and then ask them a simple question that wouldn’t
compromise their business. This way, you won’t use up too
much of their time but your inquiry demands a response.
When they email you back, follow a similar format but offer
more information about yourself. Write a longer email. Try
to keep a volley going back and forth and after a while see
if they have an IM name. Infuse your emails with your
personality and become curious about them, their
motivations, and their life. Before long, you will have a
friendly business contact with someone that could pay off
in infinite ways.

Getting business alliances to promote your product Before
seeking to ask a business alliance for any favors, such as
blasting your ad their list. You must already have a
powerful, proven sales process in place before you seek
their counsel and/or assistance. Do not become overzealous
and assume that someone has the same belief and passion for
your product as you do. All too often we become prideful
and think that our product is the best when, in fact,
others do not share the same appreciation. If you are
seeking to have someone with a big list send out an
advertisement for you product you would have to be careful
in how you went about it.

Someone with a big list and a successful business is, most
likely, busy. They probably get hundreds of emails a day.
Unless your proposal is credible and attractive to them it
will not get consideration. The majority of people and
especially entrepreneurs are cautious by nature. They will
not undertake a joint venture unless you can prove that you
can make them money, that you are reliable, and that your
product will not tarnish their reputation. Make sure that
you don’t waste their time. Don’t insult them with a hyped
up sales pitch about how much money they can make if they
sell your product. If you are trying to get them to mail
something to their list about your product include
statistics, documentation, and, if possible, your actual

Find an ad that pulls extremely well, through testing. Know
the conversion ratio and have everything documented. Let
them know that you are legitimate and that you are selling
a high quality product. Nobody wants to get involved with
someone who is going to tarnish their reputation. Give them
specific, documented conversion statistics from similar
advertising campaigns Make sure and state what is in it for
them. Are they going to get a share of your backend
profits? Are you going to sell their product to your list?
Tell them that promotions for your product have been going

Tell them that your particular ad converts at a specific
ratio. Tell them that you think they should give it a shot.
You do, of course, want to be sure that what you are
recommending will turn out to be profitable for them.
Otherwise, they won’t ever work with you again. And don’t
just pop this sales pitch out of no where or the person
will feel used. It might be a good idea only to mention the
idea and then if they sound interested fill them in with
the details.

You may publish this article in your ezine, newsletter on
your web site as long as the byline is included and the
article is included in it’s entirety. I also ask that you
activate any html links found in the article and in the

Copyright 2005

Finding the Right Alliances to Double Sales

Today’s business climate requires more sales with less effort and less employees. Finding the right strategic business alliance can double sales. Picking the wrong partners costs you money, time and revenue. The wrong alliance partnerships is like eating chocolate-covered jalapenos, they start out sweet and bite you in the end.

Strategic alliances are the conscious collaboration of individuals and/or companies to mutually grow. All parties involved must make an effort for the success of the relationship. Passive relationships seldom bear fruit. Focus on those that you can manage and trust to ensure growth. Spending time creating the right alliance relationships that matches your customers pays tremendous dividends.

The first step in finding a key alliance is understanding your current and potential customers. Can you answer all of these questions about your customers or prospects?


  • What industry do they serve?
  • Where in the world do they sell their products?
  • How big is the company (Revenue & Employees)?
  • How long have they been in business?
  • What are their psychographics (values)?
  • What are their Products and/or Services?
  • What problems do you solve for your customers?
  • How easy are they to do business with?
  • Does your customer sell someone else’s products?
  • Who are their suppliers?
  • Who else sells to them?
  • What community activities do they belong to or participate in?
  • How do they buy your product (direct, indirect, as part of another product)?
  • Why did your customer choose you over the competition?
  • Who are their ideal customers (answer these questions for their customers)?

Knowing your customers is instrumental for keeping them happy and finding more. An alliance comes from three different arenas: Customers’ Community, Industry Catalysts and Distribution Channels. Using an Alliance Compass can direct sales to your customers, your true north.

If you know where your customers live, and how they interact with their communities (communities can be local or global industry communities), you can meet them there. The on-line communities are now being referred to as Tribes. Just like the face-to-face networking groups, on-line networking does take work.

Working with community organizations can be trying and require work. You cannot just pay your monthly and expect customers to just show up. Volunteer for committees, and get your face known. Your cost to join these groups will be your time. With work, communities can be alliance partner to grow your business.

For example, a local business owner wanted to meet the presidents of small businesses. He joined a local chamber of commerce. Then he promptly volunteered for the committee to judge the small business of the year. His time as a volunteer lead to meeting all the up and coming business owners in the community. His customers live in the community and he received an introduction to them. His chamber was his alliance partner.

From your research on your prospects, you know who else calls on them. These people become your Industry Catalysts and informal sales ambassadors. Using Industry Catalysts, you use the power of others that already have the trust of your customers. Finding these companies for collaboration is easy. If you are active in your customers’ communities, you will meet influential Industry Catalysts.

To find other catalysts, ask your current customers:


  • What other products do they use?
  • Who else sells product to them?
  • Are your products/services used with another product (complementary)?
  • Can you work with your competitors – co-opetition?


Your catalysts partners may share in your revenue as an affiliate. As they are giving you business you would not have received otherwise, this is usually acceptable. Similarly, some collaborations maybe just “scratch my back and I’ll scratch your back” business trading. For example, CPA’s or bankers may not be able to take a referral fee, and therefore you need to give them business in exchange.

One client in the high technology field uses IT (information technology) providers to recommend their products to small business owners. You can find the IT support company for a business owner just by asking, “If you computer breaks, who are you going to call?” The IT provider has the trust of the business owner, and could recommend your products. These IT providers now are the industry catalyst for our client.

The most complex form of alliance partnership is Distribution Channels. The key here is to understand how your customer wants to buy your product. If you want to enter this type of alliance, be prepared for contractual relationships and partner management issues. Properly constructed and managed, using Distribution Channels can drastically expand your revenue. Examples include resellers, dealers, joint ventures or OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers). Not only does this apply to the sales side of the business, but setting up joint ventures for R&D can expand your product lines. These relationships cannot be entered into lightly as they take time and effort to make them succeed.

Picking the right alliance partners starts with understanding your customers. Then you know the best way to get to them. Your customers and marketplace determines the type of alliance you want to create.

After you have chosen the correct partners, you have to spend time and effort in managing the relationship to ensure it is a success for both parties. This article has addressed the hunting for the alliance, and doesn’t start to cover the farming of the relationship.

Once the relationship starts, an alliance life cycle plan helps establish how you work with the identified partners. Strategic alliances are not for the shortsighted or the faint of heart. The relationship takes work, but the pay off can be immense. Making a conscious effort to create the right partnerships at the very start can double, triple or even quadruple your sales revenue. You want to avoid eating the chocolate-covered jalapenos associated with bad partnerships.

What is an Alliance and Why Consider One?

A business alliance is a formal association of two or more business parties to further their common interests, presumably over the long term. As such, these alliances take many forms with varying degrees of complexity and difficulty.

In its simplest form, an alliance can be described as a buy/sell arrangement. On a more complex level, a long term relationship and alliance may result from an effort to co-develop or share technology, or a through technology licensing agreement. Even more complex in nature are partnerships and joint ventures. Joint ventures typically achieve the ultimate level of complexity, particularly when the global aspect of business is introduced and especially if the parties to the alliance are from different countries and different cultures.

Unfortunately, there are too many examples of alliances formed between business entities that were predicated upon the premise that “everyone else in the industry is doing it, so it must be the right course of action.” Others have been formed based upon the whim of upper-level management with no real analysis as to whether an alliance was necessary.

In almost all cases where inadequate planning supersedes the formation of the alliance, the likelihood of success is infinitesimal and the likelihood of failure is practically assured. In contrast, when properly developed and formed, joint ventures represent an opportunity to leverage expertise from each party, thereby creating a more powerful and a more competitive entity than one based on an extension of one of the party’s existing resource base. This becomes even more critical in today’s global business environment wherein the right alliance partner can provide local market knowledge, legal expertise, knowledge of local business practices, local customs, etc.

What is an Alliance?

A business alliance is a formal association of two or more business parties to further their common interests, presumably over the long term. As such, these alliances can take many forms with varying degrees of complexity and difficulty. In its simplest form, an alliance can be described as a buy/sell arrangement. On a more complex level, a long term relationship and alliance may result from an effort to co-develop or share technology, or possibly from a technology licensing agreement. Even more complex are partnerships or joint ventures especially when the global aspect of business is introduced, and especially if the parties to the alliance are from different countries and different cultures.

Before attempting to form an alliance, you need to make sure that you are familiar with the steps. Preparing in advance is like practicing the dance steps before your first dance. It will help you avoid possible mistakes, and perhaps stepping on someone else’s toes.

To begin with, you will need to answer the following key questions before you take that first dance step:

o Do we truly need an alliance or do we have the expertise and the resources required to succeed on our own?
o What benefits do we expect from an alliance versus going it alone (both financial and non-financial)?
o Who are the potential alliance associates?
o What alternative forms of alliance have we considered and what form should the alliance take?

To answer these questions you will need to perform a thorough, objective and honest assessment of your company’s business environment, the internal and external challenges it faces, its resource capabilities and limitations, AND its strengths and weaknesses. You’ll also want to evaluate the opportunities and threats facing your business. To complete this assessment, you will need to develop a detailed business plan.

Business Alliances – Strategy For Small Business Growth

Business alliances are often overlooked or not given much consideration by small businesses, yet they can be vital in helping a company grow and prosper. All too often, small businesses think alliances are just for big businesses; as a result, they neither explore nor pursue them. However, they can be just as beneficial for small businesses as they are for large corporations. If a small business is serious about gaining access to new markets, capitalizing on technology, growing profits using shared resources, they should consider a business alliance.

It’s no secret, businesses that share resources can create greater efficiencies and become more profitable. Business alliances can increase synergies and mitigate potential risk, while allowing companies to work together toward common goals as they maintain their individuality. There are several types of business alliances, each with its unique attributes.

Now is the time to assess what your business brings to the table. What assets, either tangible or intangible, does your business possess that when leveraged with another company can unlock greater potential for each business?

Alliance opportunities can be developed with suppliers, customers, investors, complementary businesses and friendly competitors. Some alliances are natural matches, while others require some creative thinking. I’ve listed the different types of alliances below, along with a description and example of each. When reading through them, think about how your business can create the benefits of a win-win proposition with another company.


A joint venture is a contractual arrangement whereby a separate entity is created to carry on a trade or business on its own, separate from the core business of the participating companies. Businesses often come together to share knowledge, markets, funds and profits. In some cases, a large company can decide to form a joint venture with a smaller business in order to quickly acquire critical intellectual property, technology, or resources otherwise hard to obtain. Companies with identical products and services can also join forces to penetrate markets they wouldn’t or couldn’t consider without investing a tremendous amount of resources. Separation is often inevitable because JVs generally have a limited life and purpose.

Example: You’ve developed a product but have a limited distribution base. Another company has the distribution system in place with a sizable market and wants to expand its company’s product offerings. You form a joint venture with the other company to jointly promote the product. It’s a win-win because you don’t have to fund the costs of reaching the potential customers and the other company expands its value and product offering to its current distribution base without having to fund the research and development costs of a new product. A contract would be signed detailing the aspects of the agreement.


A strategic alliance is generally an arrangement whereby a separate entity is not created. Participants engage in joint activities but do not create an entity that would carry on trade or business on its own. The strategic alliance partners may provide resources such as products, distribution channels, manufacturing capabilities, capital equipment, knowledge, expertise, or intellectual property. Each party in the alliance maintains autonomy.

Example: A business management consultant wants to expand his services. He currently offers coaching, marketing, financial and operational consulting. He has noticed an increase demand for HR and diversity consulting from his clientele. He currently has no desire to hire additional personnel with the degrees and certifications required to offer these services. He seeks a strategic alliance with a HR and diversity consulting firm. The new firm agrees to work with his firm when opportunities arise for their services and a percentage of the revenue generated from the services provided will be returned to his firm.


A partnership is a legal agreement between two parties wherein both the parties agree to share profits and losses of a common business with no anticipated end date.

Example: A company whose primary function is to sell ads and produce unique coupon circulars to promote a variety of small businesses to the residential community had a substantial printing bill monthly. The company sought a partnership with a small printing company. The printing company had the expertise but limited printing volume. It required purchasing equipment that the printer didn’t have but saw a need for. A contract was signed establishing the new company; cost of the equipment was split between the two entities. The coupon circular producer sent all its business to the new venture at a substantial discount. The profits from the new venture were divided among the coupon circular company and the printing company. Each kept their original businesses separate from the new business.


A marketing alliance is an agreement involving two or more companies to share cost and resources to promote each of the companies within the group. The target markets of the companies within the alliance usually share similar characteristics. The alliance can be a formal or an informal agreement.

Example: A group of locally owned and operated restaurants band together to form a marketing alliance. The alliance, similar to groups throughout the nation, promotes the uniqueness of their cuisines in an effort to stand out against the national chains. The group pools their resources to run ads and produce a direct mail guide to promote their menus, while offering discounts. They pay an upfront fee and then contribute several hundred dollars in gift certificates every quarter. Those certificates are sold online at a discount to help fund their marketing efforts. Donating gift certificates help keep the cost down for the participating restaurateurs.


A collaboration is when two or more businesses come together to share resources to create greater efficiencies such as the sharing of employees, equipment, shipping cost, rent, products and etc. Collaborations are generally for specific time periods and resources.

Example: As a small business you may have a difficult time throwing a first class holiday party for your employees. You want to show them just how much they are appreciated but the economy is tight and company funds are even tighter. Pooling your resources to have a party with a complementary company, saves money for both companies and could potentially pay off in new business opportunities and networking.

Managing the Alliances

Each company should bring a balance set of strengths to the alliance but there are other considerations as well. You must manage the alliance to ensure it contributes to the success of each company. Listed below are few of the things you should consider to produce a successful alliance:

1. Alliances should be made with the decision maker. You must have the support and commitment from the business owner and not just a manager.

2. Communication is a key ingredient. Clearly communicate the goals and objectives of the alliance in the beginning.

3. Develop the metrics the alliance will be measured against. Determine how the performance of each of the companies will be measured.

4. Allocate proper resources to the alliance. Don’t get half way through the project before you determine the proper resources were not allocated to the venture.

5. Ensure that all participating employees are committed to the success of the alliance. You need buy-in from everyone involved, not just a few select people.

6. Detail the responsibilities of each of the participating companies. Be explicit in what the expectations are for each of the companies in the alliance.

7. Just like all things, nothing is perfect. Be prepared to make changes if something is not working.

8. Stay committed and focused on the benefits of the alliance rather than the inconveniences the alliance may cause.

Each party must benefit from the alliance for it to be successful. Otherwise, like a marriage, the relationship will go from honeymoon to divorce court quickly and all parties will suffer.

Online Business Alliance (OBA) – “Stacked Income”

If you’ve ever purchased an ebook or an online business opportunity, presented by compelling sales pages with copywriting that lured you in like a big red fish, only to be completely disappointed, you ought to read this.

You know how they do it.

It starts with a big red headline using an impact font that captures your attention. For example, “Who else want to make X amount and finally learn the secret to making money online?”. Something like that.

Next, they try to reel you in, pull your strings and make you feel as though you are not doing everything you can to support your family. “Take action NOW!” “See you on the other side” they say.

How many times have you heard that?

You send them your $49.95, you reach the other side, and learn that the secret to online marketing is writing articles and posting in forums. Do this consistently and you can ride off into the sunset.

If you are like me and don’t give up, you should read “Stacked Income” by Dave Gray. It is well worth every penny. In fact it costs 500 pennies ($5).

Mr. Gray is a distinguished business man with a fresh, real world approach to Internet marketing. He is the founder and administrator of the Online Business Alliance (OBA).

One of the main points is that Stacked Income” is not another name for “multiple streams of income”. Gray explains in detail how “multiple streams of income’ never work and contrasts that to his stacked income formula in a step-by-step methodically way.

Another important chapter covers the fallacies involved with “the money is in the list” approach. How many times have you heard that? Dave Gray squashes that theory as well and explains why in a no nonsense businesslike approach.

When you purchase “Stacked Income” or any other of Dave Gray’s products for $5, you are automatically provided an online business opportunity and membership to the Online Business Alliance (OBA). Basically, it’s an invitation you can’t refuse.

Once you’re inside the OBA, it is also a step-by-step process. You can leave and come back, but you can’t skip a step. This helps everyone.

Speaking of help, there is tons of it in the forum and Dave Gray will answer your questions personally if necessary. Everyone in there is friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful. Absolutely no one will try to sell you anything or try to get you to do this or that. The help is truly genuine.

There is a lot more to the Online Business Alliance and “Stacked Income” than selling five dollar ebooks and digital products. While that is a lucrative business for many and the product line continues to expand, the business model outlined in detail in “Stacked Income” is the exciting part.

This is not the same old same old ebook with the same reused, resale rights content with a new, spruced up ebook cover. This is proprietary and revolutionary new information that will prove to be the future of Internet marketing for the foreseeable future.

A Business Alliance is Not a Marriage – Part 2

A Business Alliance is Not a Marriage More Like Serious Dating… with a Prenup

What kind of team building can we do to get both sides of our business alliance working better together?” “How can we get them to trust us more?” “As partners, shouldn’t we be looking at the balance between risk and reward equally?”

These are just a few of the questions I’ve been asked in recent months. The answers, in my not to be popular opinion, are clear, succinct, and a wee bit blunt. Hang in there though. The recommendations that follow can make this pill easier to swallow.

This is Part 2 of a 4-part series: Part 1 ● Part 2 ● Part 3 ● Part 4

Step 4. Keep Blackberry Use to a Minimum When Dating in Your Business Alliance

How many of us have dated via blackberry? Can you imagine what that would look like?

Via text messaging:

“Hi U like food? (reply + or -)”. Click send.

Ring tone (Pink Floyd caller song ID). “Yum Yum.” Click send.

“What? Spaghetti +! OMG. M2.”

I mean really. What kind of dating is that? And yet, just the other day I worked with a company who couldn’t seem to function any other way when it came to communicating with their alliance cohorts, let alone among themselves. The majority of their correspondence (and I do mean majority) has been sent courtesy of that little electronic gadget attached to the hip and sporting a fruity name.

Savvy consumers of project management will tell you to build in as many face-to-face encounters as you can.

It’s not one-way relay of data that builds collaboration, clarifies expectations or results in synergistic what ifs. It’s the ability to engage in conversation, a healthy banter in which each party builds upon the other’s views, explores potential pitfalls and considers remedies. By seeing the other person, you hear what it is they’re saying. Latest statistics out there indicate that non-verbal communication is 92% of the message. Words comprise 8%. Makes you think twice about sending an email doesn’t it?

What to do? Build in frequent F2F (face-to-face) meetings with your alliance counterparts. Project starts, key milestones, project conclusions are typical rules of thumb when convening in person. For longer projects, (often associated with alliances), consider at least one F2F per business quarter and hold that date as sacred.

Alternate travel locations so that one side is not enduring the brunt of trains, planes or automobiles. Supplement F2F meetings with state of the art video web streaming. We’re not talking about the archaic Godzilla style movies where all the lip movements of the actors were out of sync with the voice over. It’s 2007 and they make a plethora of high digital resolution video streaming that you can afford. Let’s put it this way, you can’t afford not to invest in either the travel time or the video streaming.

Step 5. The Team that Needs Nurturing is Your Own

The other interesting item I’ve seen of late is the tendency for organizations to assume their own staff are up to speed, on course and sailing straight ahead… without ever having to meet with one another. In some cases, briefings are about as common as the annual Holiday party. People meet up with their alliance counterparts ill equipped and often, uninformed. There is little or infrequent relay of strategy on latest events which may have some bearing on soon to be scheduled action items. This gap in communication leads to a huge hole in understanding and often results in missed milestones. Ensuring that your own team understands project goals, roles and responsibilities and other critical elements should be your number one priority.

What to do? Meet often and frequently with your team. Consider adopting war room communication strategies. Post information in a common area; make visual; conduct briefings and hold status reports frequently. Update the group on rules of engagement with every change of team member – your alliance counterparts as well as your own.

Step 6. He Who Owns the Pen Owns the Meeting.

Part A. One of the side effects of infrequent discussions are that F2F meetings (or even teleconferences) become packed to the brim with agenda items so voluminous that the meeting ends up being counterproductive. Sally needs 15 minutes to brief the group on market research, but takes 45 minutes instead. Fred is there because he wanted to be “available” should any of the visiting alliance members have a question. Only he starts to pipe in with his comments during several of the sections which ultimately derails the agenda. The investigational review that didn’t happen over the phone on Tuesday has been rolled over to the Friday meeting and so on and so on.

What to do? Own the agenda by crafting it and sending it out to others for their input – which is very different from assuming others will author it. This is not your administrative assistant’s responsibility, it’s yours. You create the agenda, then ask others to modify it (See Step 9- Author-Edit Rule(TM)) Send the agenda out at least 48 hours in advance. Keep it simple; not overly layered. Post it visually. Have someone (who has sufficient backbone and talent to manage in warp speed fashion) lead the group through the action items and capture salient points.

Part B. Real facilitation of meetings takes place before and after the meeting, not during. Call people once you’ve sent the agenda. “Did you get the agenda?… What questions might you have?… Is there anything I may have missed? Bob, I’m looking forward to you taking lead on the second section… By the way, what happened to the patient portfolio market timeline?” Chances are that by checking in with your key stakeholders and engaging before hand, as well as after, you’ll not only ensure better meetings, you’ll also establish better rapport.

What to do? Remember, in order to get to respect, it’s all about creating a series of shared experiences in which congruity of values are first demonstrated. Besides which, frequent conversations allow you to gather data about your alliance counterpart. What is it they must have for this project to be successful? What are their greatest fears? Not only is the data invaluable to you as you navigate toward successful project execution, but you’re also able to swap levels of expertise without a peanut gallery commenting on your dialogue.

Part C. Not every meeting is for everyone. Some meetings are for passing along nuggets of information- coincidentally, we call these informational meetings. It’s OK to have 4 attend or 400, which ever number of people you believe would benefit from the educational value of the information being relayed.

Then there’s the status or brainstorming meeting in which key members provide input on project activities. Project hiccups are identified and cures explored.

It’s the decision meeting that has everyone’s skirts up over their heads. Decision meetings should just be for decision makers – not spectators. For example, if Jonathon is new to the group, he may spend a good portion of his time posturing to any audience in the room not part of the decision making group. I call this the “justification of existence” entrance. What soon happens however is that the justification of existence begins to spread like a virus. After the first 30 minutes of the meeting, everyone seems to be puffing out their chests and claiming their territory. The only thing missing is the mating call of the wild.

What to do? Reduce the numbers attending meetings to those who are the actual decision makers. Our research shows that 5-7 is optimal. More than that and chaos typically ensues with individual agendas getting in the way of the overarching project objectives. Capture salient points in real time. Have a PC and printer available. Recap all action items and assignments while people are still gathered. Get agreement. Ensure there is no confusion. Distribute the draft immediately so that people walk out the door or hang up the phone viewing the agreed upon actions. If needed, follow up with a more formal recap within 48 hours. Keep the recap clear and concise. Who, what and when are really all that’s needed.

A Business Alliance is Not a Marriage – Part 1

A Business Alliance is Not a Marriage More Like Serious Dating… with a Prenup


“What kind of team building can we do to get both sides of our business alliance working better together?” “How can we get them to trust us more?” “As partners, shouldn’t we be looking at the balance between risk and reward equally?”

These are just a few of the questions I’ve been asked in recent months. The answers, in my not to be popular opinion, are clear, succinct, and a wee bit blunt. Hang in there though. The recommendations that follow can make this pill easier to swallow. First, let’s debunk a few myths commonly associated with an alliance.

This is Part 1 of a 4-part series: Part 1 ● Part 2 ● Part 3 ● Part 4

First, a business alliance is not a team. An alliance is comprised of two completely different organizations with independent objectives, diverse values and differing results requiring an organization’s specific reckoning- ergo, by definition, it is NOT a team.

Secondly, trust, the sought after metric in alliances doesn’t happen just because it’s the thing to do in a pop culture society. It’s been my experience that the TRUST we speak of so loosely in our alliance circles comes about from a deeply mutual respect based on congruity of values stemming from shared experiences. One begats the other, and the begetting is in sequence. If you’re familiar with the Book of Numbers in the Bible, you’ll notice an awful lot of begats. Hezekial begat Jebediah, Jebediah begat Abner who begat… well you get the gist. Trust is similar. It too requires a lot of begats beginning with a fair amount of time spent, shared experiences, congruity of values, mutual respect with an eventual culmination in trust.

It should come as no surprise then that when complete strangers begin surveying one another in the first few moments of their alliance, the desired level of trust is less than stellar.

Finally, an alliance is not a partnership. Why would it be? There’s rarely a perceived equity between risk, investment and reward. One party is typically bigger than the other. One usually has more to win or lose than the other. There is no real equity, thus no real partnership. When people behave as though there are emotional conclusions and context as to how the other party should view and regard initiatives in the alliance they are often led down a path in which communication and understanding breaks down. If you get right down to it, the complaints arising from this misconception tend to look and sound an awful lot like a marriage counseling session.

In short, alliances aren’t teams. They’re not partnerships and they’re certainly not a marriage. What are they? They’re projects.

Teams imply adherence to pre-established and organizationally linked mission, vision, goals, rewards, recognition and risks. Projects don’t.

Marriage partnerships imply equality. Projects don’t.

Alliances are projects, in the purest and simplest definition of the term. If we could just cut through some of the rhetoric out there, reduce the number of surveys assessing feelings, and re-assign the folks pushing equality and camaraderie at any cost, we’d have more than just a handful of alliances to point to as the successful “Come on! You can do it!”” benchmark.

Framing alliance efforts as a project, forces both sides of the alliance to work from an objective perspective versus a subjective one. Project management tenets constructively minimize political or emotional undercurrents which can often derail collaboration efforts.

When approached as a project, alliance efforts can move a group of non-partners into a collaborative effort.

Still, for all of you out there who remain addicted to the concept of teams and equitable marriage partnerships within the alliance movement, here’s my version of a 12 Step Program to help you on your way to Alliance Management Recovery:

Step 1. Make the language of the relationship project based. Take out all language used amongst yourselves (and which in turn may be found in supporting documents) referring to teams, partnerships and equality in the alliance. Replace it with a new relationship language thus realigning the meaning. Terms such as the following will go a long way to resetting expectations: Collaborative project Project goals Project Schedule Project Budget Project Metrics …. You get the point.

What to do? Start with your own internal reference pieces. Create a project charter as a starting document to reset terminology and provide collaboration parameters. See Step 2.

Step 2. Create a Project Prenup. Via the prenup (or project charter), structure is given to the gooey nature of working with other people across organizations. In it you will find items such as: Purpose Deliverables Assumptions Challenges/Questions Project Scope (What’s In… What’s Out) Constraints Decision Makers (Sponsors) Team Member Roles and Assignment Risk Mitigation

A project charter clearly spells out the significant expectations and rules for managing key endeavors of the alliance. In it, both parties review and agree prior to the project starting. To move things along, you’ll want to create a prenup for each key project associated with the alliance, which leads us to Step 3.

What to do? Craft a written project charter and forward along to your counterparts. Reference it throughout your efforts. The charter can act as a constructive contract directing collaboration efforts.

Step 3. Divide the Alliance Pie into Bite Size Pieces. If you can segment some of the larger portions of the alliance into very specific project parameters, you’re better able to manage, coordinate, measure and monitor. It’s like the old adage of divide and conquer, only instead of Roman swords, you’re using project charters, RACI Charts and Critical Path Crashing Schedules.

This also gives you an opportunity to pilot certain project practices in one area of the alliance before rolling out to other areas. By segmenting the alliance into tangible project scenarios, you can minimize the potential for serious wrinkles (isolated into one project area). Before the entire alliance applecart is upset, you’ve got a remedy in hand and best practices discovered from your pilot, all of which can then be transplanted.

What to do? Look at the project as a whole. Where are there logical project parameters? Commercialization? Domestic vs. International Distribution? Product Marketing?

This is Part 1 of a 4-part series: Part 1 ● Part 2 ● Part 3 ● Part 4

The 12 Step Program to Alliance Management Recovery may not be for everyone, but we think the tenets have some merit. At the very least, it should put managing alliances in a healthier perspective.

Following a few of these steps should put you in true business alliance dating form in no time.