Taking on a new high value partner is one of the most important decisions that you can make as a business leader. The success or failure of that partnership, can directly affect the success of your business growth plans.
Get it right and you achieve your goals. Get it wrong and you can be set back years.
Looking at things from that perspective, it is easy to see why getting partnerships right is so important.
Getting off to the right start with a kick-off meeting
A good long term partnership needs to start off on the right foot. Getting clear and realistic expectations set for the initial period is critical to future success.
Both sides need to know what is expected of them and senior decision makers on both sides need to be fully engaged in the expectations for the partnership. Both in the short term and the long term.
The 3 main goals of a kick off meeting are:
- Rapport - Getting all the people involved in the partnership from both sides in a meeting together, is a great way to build rapport. After this initial meeting its likely much of the interaction will be via email and phone calls. An opportunity to meet in person, makes it much easier to get everyone on the same from the start and keep them on it in the future.
- Expectations - Both sides will have expectations from the partnership and in particular the early days of the relationship. Setting out and discussing these expectations is an important goal for the kick-off meeting.
- Details to start - At the beginning of any partnership, there will be plenty of questions to have answered to get things off to the best possible start. The kick-off meeting is the perfect opportunity to ask these questions and clarify any grey areas.
Common challenges with kick-off meetings
Not having the right people in the room.
Not including senior decision makers who will ultimately be responsible for the success or failure of the relationship is a common challenge with kick off meetings. They are busy or appear to have higher value activities to attend to. If this partnership is critical to your future success, make sure you have all the relevant people in the room.
Not having a clear agenda
You're setting the tone for the rest of your relationship. Having an agenda, means that you can share it before hand, to make sure that both sides can be prepared. If you don't have an agenda its unlikely the meeting will cover everything that it needs to. It'll also be likely to run over time and not be the best start to the relationship.
Not being sufficiently prepared
Both sides need to be prepared for the kick off meeting to be as successful as possible. If either side isn't sufficiently prepared, it'll make the meeting more difficult, there will be a lot more follow-up actions. It is also likely that the early stages of the relationship won't be as productive as they could be.
Not running it soon enough in the engagement
Kick-off meetings are crucial to getting the partnership relationships established, important information agreed, and expectations set. If kick-off meeting are run later in the engagement than the first couple of weeks, it will mean important things are not in place. Time will be wasted or activities undertaken based on assumptions. The sooner you can run the kick-off meeting the better. If you are struggling to get the right people together, can you arrange a video conference to include those that can't make it, so that you can run it sooner?
How to get the most from your kick off meeting
Follow these 10 tips to get the most out of your kick-off meeting.
- Prioritise the kick-off meeting. Make sure everyone understands the value of the kick-off meeting and prioritises it.
- Arrange it early. Arrange the kick-off meeting as early as possible in the engagement, to minimise any wasted time and the risk of things going off track. Within the first 2 weeks of getting started is ideal.
- Have the right people in the room. Ensure all of the key people involved in the relationship and who will be reported to, can attend the meeting. If they are overseas or away on business, arrange a time when they can video call into the meeting. Zoom.us is a great tool for this.
- Establish relationships. Start with introductions. Some people will already know each other from the sales process. However, others won't. Starting with introductions is a great way to break the ice.
- Set the agenda. Set a timeframe and timed agenda for the kick-off meeting. Share it with all the participants at least a few days prior to the meeting so that they can prepare.
- Agree expectations. Agree your expectations from the relationship, especially in the early days. Agree how you are going to measure success and hold each side accountable to their responsibilities.
- Set goals. Review your goals and overall expectations from the partnership. It is important both sides get these out on the table. Even if they were clearly spelled out in the sales process, there is no harm in reiterating them. It will reinforce them and make sure everyone in the room is familiar with them.
- Agree a timeline. If you're working on a project it is likely this will be included as one of the goals. If you're working on a long term partnership, set a timeline for the initial period, after which you should get together for a review of how things are going.
- Define a framework for communication. The most common cause for failure in partnerships is a break down in communication. Getting a framework agreed will help you avoid this. Agree the main points of contact, when you'll be reporting on results, what you'll be reporting on and who needs to be involved. Agree who'll be responsible for providing the information you need and how you'll resolve issues.
- Agree next steps. You want the meeting to finish, with actions agreed and notes shared. This will probably be via a follow up email. As part of this, make sure that everyone is clear on the next steps, what they are responsible for and when it is needed by.
This is our experience from running successful kick-off meetings. If you have any insights you can share, we'd love to hear them.