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The Underappreciated Key to Business Success: Partners

To make a company successful, several ingredients are mandatory: a great strategy, terrific employees, and a mission that rallies those employees forward.

But there is another must-have that is necessary for success, one often forgotten in the drive to hire top talent or identify key opportunities. Call them partnerships, alliances or friends, most organizations need help from the outside.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a Harvard Business School professor, reminds us of the critical importance of finding and maintaining key relationships in her blog post, Three Reasons Everything Goes Better with Partners.

"The teammates by your side are certainly important. They're part of the family." Kanter writes. "But even more important are the partners or allies not directly involved in your project or venture who help you extend your reach and get what you need to succeed -- key suppliers, distributors, co-developers, independent designers, endorsers, and beyond. They are the extended family."

One advantage to consorting with great partners, she says, is that they provide access to people or resources you might not know or have the clout to command.

"They fight for you in meetings you can't attend, accounting for why people with sponsors are more likely to succeed in large organizations. Partners and allies provide windows on new ideas and introductions to new territories, whether to customers, suppliers, or opinion leaders."

Allies also help you when strength in numbers counts, such as when trying to influence public policy or remove barriers. And the third advantage is that partners help you create better products, either by supplying needed parts or contributing to an ecosystem that creates value for your customers, such as independent developers do by writing mobile apps for Apple's iPhone and iPad.

The key in developing successful partnerships is to think of allies and alliances from the start, not as an afterthought. Partners can help you create a better strategy just as easily as they can help you create a better product.

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(Photo by Flickr user fudj, CC 2.0)