Joint Ventures and collaborations can be very successful, as long as you set up some ground rules that allow you to have open and honest communications throughout.

First, ask yourself about the purpose of the collaboration.  Figure out your specific reasons for wanting to collaborate with someone.  They could be:

  • You need an ally for moral support on a particularly challenging project.
  • You need the skills or contacts to achieve the objective.
  • You need someone with experience that you don’t have for a specific project.
  • You need to share the burden of risks, responsibilities and workload.
  • Or you may simply prefer working with others because it’s more fun!

When you decide to work in partnership with someone, here are five essential actions to do before you start working together to ensure the collaboration is successful:


Do a Reality Check

Ask yourself if it’s appropriate to collaborate with someone for this project, task or activity.  There will be times when a Joint Venture will be a better fit than other times, so going through the reasons and doing a reality check involves asking yourself these questions:

  • What am I holding on to; am I too attached to something?
  • Can I really share this with someone else?
  • Will I get better results with a collaboration rather than doing it alone?
  • Define the purpose of why the joint venture is needed.
  • What does the collaborative relationship look like?

These questions help you find your reality and recognise your starting point.


Risks and Rewards

The only way to ensure your collaboration is successful is by being honest and up front with one another.  So, discuss the following together:

  • What are the risks and rewards?  Acknowledge the fears and expectations on you both, including the level of risk you’re prepared to take.  Managing expectations is important.
  • Are your values aligned?  Understanding this helps to ensure that you both have a good cultural and commercial fit.
  • What do you see as the shared benefits?
  • What rewards are you both expecting from this?  What’s in it for both of you?  It’s important that both parties are really open about this to ensure that the rewards work for you both.
  • Set out your boundaries clearly as part of the managing expectations process.  For instance, you could say that if you’re going to share this bit with them but keep that for yourself, are you clear about where both your actions start and stop?  Delegating elements of tasks rather than the whole thing can end in frustration if there are blurred boundaries and mismatched expectations.  The reality may not match up to expectations unless very clear boundaries are set.
  • Is there a skills gap?  Between you, do you have all the essential skills required to deliver those expectations?  Don’t assume that person has those skills; if it turns out that neither of you do, then you’re not a good fit and the collaboration won’t work.

Cover all of these points as openly and honestly as possible in your initial conversations to ensure a successful outcome.  You may find areas where you need to negotiate a compromise.



Be really clear on who’s going to do what.  This really comes down to being open and up front about boundaries, the division of responsibilities and the decision making.

If there are times when you don’t agree, who has the casting vote?  Decide that at the start.

For fairness’ sake, make sure the balance of responsibilities is right.  If you worry that your responsibilities will take longer than your partner’s, that can feel like they are getting rewarded for doing less.  Check that everyone is happy with the balance of who’s doing what.

Communication is paramount here.  You each need to feel able to ask questions of one another, even if you know each other well.  Listen hard to the answers – ensure you fully understand them –  to work together as a truly united front.  Never assume what the other wants.


Regularly Report and Review

Keep checking in with each other.  Decide at the outset how frequently you should keep in touch to ensure you’re all on track.  The type of checking in will depend on the purpose of the joint venture and what sort of activities and tasks need doing.

During your regular reporting and reviewing, check that the balance is still there.  The last thing you want is someone beginning to feel resentful thinking they’re doing more work than agreed.

Regularly revisit the risks and rewards, redefine the roles and responsibilities, and check back in with the relationship.  Is everything complete?  Has the project run its course?


Remove Yourself if it’s Not Working

If you agreed a finite timescale at the beginning, that could help everyone to finish on time.  Or you may have agreed to continue until certain rewards were achieved for everyone to walk away happy.  It may be a finite or a more open-ended agreement, depending on the original purpose of the collaboration.

When things start to feel stale or the collaboration has served its purpose, you can agree to go your separate ways.  Some joint ventures may have three or more parties in it – if one party decides to leave, the others can continue if they wish.

Maintaining open and honest communications throughout means that when the time comes to leave, it’s a far easier conversation to have.  Plus, if you’re doing the regular reporting and reviewing well, it shouldn’t be a surprise to the other parties.