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Why are some 'Partnerships in Peril'?

The past several months has put many relationships under strain as people and organisations adjust to extraordinary circumstances. In this series of blogs, YabbleHub offer thoughts on why partnerships break down and what steps can be taken to ensure they survive and thrive as we emerge from the pandemic in the months and years ahead.

‘Partnership’ sits high in the word count of many an organisation’s website. It’s an effective way of promoting one’s eagerness to convey a selfless vision to prospective clients, whilst is bland enough not to be challenged by the doubters. It is a ‘win word’; it offers a sense of receptiveness and reasonableness and speaks of collaboration, trust and respect based on parity of contribution and equitable benefits. A relationship dominated by forensically referenced contractual obligations with little opportunity for flexibility to manage unforeseen circumstances collaboratively isn’t really a partnership in its truest sense.

A strong business partnership is based upon some key principles; longevity, a single aim that involved parties share, a structure that limits ambiguity and contributes essential gains for all. All pretty simple in the early years when the originators are still reaping the benefits of the coming together, the resulting offer, the product is fresh in the mind, the key figures are still involved and the demand for the offer is high and financial assumptions are met.

Push forward 10 years or so and things can look very different: the cash benefits of the partnership are long forgotten and the details and obligations of the contract fuzzy. These are exceptionally complex transactions and oversimplification by successors who purport to understand the detail can be very damaging. Rather than to, 'Listen Engage Enhance', to improve the situation by working in collaboration, they prefer to grandstand and be critical of what has gone before. Reach for your copy of ‘The Little Book on Big Ego’ if you want to manage this particular issue in your workplace!

When the key individuals at the outset have moved on, the original trust is difficult to maintain. There’s no single party to blame, both or all took the benefits at inception, both have revelled in the decade of success and both have papered over the cracks until it’s too late for it to be remedied by a recovery plan, without a significant dent in returns for the stakeholders. Highly geared projects are always going to struggle longer term if expectations change in the market. It’s making sure the model and the resulting transaction have enough capacity to manage the unpredictability of the next few years. It is not naïve to think you can cover every base, you can’t, but what you can do is ensure you have flexibility in your pricing structure to adapt to market change. It is one for advisors to note.

We are already in a period of extreme financial hardship for many and with that comes a collective responsibility to seek a way forward that considers all the factors involved to make difficult projects as economically viable as possible. That means a sensible, detailed analysis of each project looking at the many risks and rewards a HE partnership can bring and turning the page to develop a refreshed approach. There is nothing more draining for an organisation to scapegoat and exit senior personnel unnecessarily without dealing with the real issues. Developing a new veneer and website with scholarly narrative simply isn’t enough if the vision is blocked at every junction by the inadequacy of the offer that perpetually fails to reach the lowest bar of expectation. It has to work for both sides and to flex to emerging needs.

Organisations will spend years and £m’s attempting to navigate around the detail in attempt to provide a solution to a Partnership in Peril. Do not ignore the reality, listen to the experts and orchestrate the change.

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