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The Coalition and Business Partnerships

There is an interesting thread on the IOD group on Linkedin on the Cameron-Clegg partnership. There are a lot of sceptics around, but also a few who think it could change the face of politics in the UK.

From a business perspective partnerships can work very well, but they are also often the cause of grief and strife. What makes the difference? Well, firstly the partners understanding`each other well enough to know what they agree on, where their objectives are similar, and where they differ.    Then the setting out of clear rules – the partnership agreement. The political signs have been fairly good in that before the partnership was formalised a lot of the issues had been nailed down, and presumably what desires each would have to forgo. How many business partnerships can claim the same? How often before the partnership is formalised have the parties fully understood what they each want and what compromises they are prepared to make.

We can see some of the advantages of a good partnership in the coalition. The extremes of both parties are moderated by the need for agreement. But of course that carries the corresponding threat that sometimes unhappy compromises might come into being which are neither one thing or the other, and meet no ones needs adequately. It is too early days to see whether this is the case, I think.

It of course helps if you and your partner have a lot in common. Well, on the political front, despite the very different natures of the parties, the two leaders are very similar – age, sex, family, education. But probably the greatest factor helping any partnership is a clear mutual self-interest. This is clearly the case with the Coalition: if Cameron had won a clear majority with all the unpopular decisions needing to be taken and almost half the House and half the voters very anti, he would probably have seen out a term but made his party unelectable for another 10 years; for Clegg the electorate showed that, despite the good media performance and high opinion polls, when it came to the crunch it did not translate into votes. By agreeing to join a Coalition, Clegg will have the opportunity of showing the Lib-Dems in government and making their party more electable for the future. Both had a lot to lose on their own.

So when evaluating a business partnership look very coolly to see that all parties have a clear need and are mutually dependent. If not, the chances of an early parting are substantial.

For the government, they will be doing well if they manage to stay together for a full term, and nobody expects that there would be a second coalition thereafter. Whereas you want your business partnership to last much longer. And over time needs change, so that it becomes more difficult to stay with all parties reasonably equally committed to the business and agreeing on the key objectives and ways forward. So always a difficult to decision to make.

But if you are in a partnership, regular reviews, planning together, reassessment of objectives becomes extremely important for the survival and prosperity of the business.