Business Development · Strategic Partnerships

First potential partnership meeting. What do I need to bring?

Joshua Bareket Entrepreneur

June 21st, 2016

I am having my first potential partnership meeting later this week. What should I prepare to bring?

I already have a PowerPoint presentation going over the points of value for each side of the partnership. 

Should I have legal documents ready to fill in specific points of the agreement ready? Or should I just prepare those points?

What else should I be prepared for?

Rob G

June 21st, 2016

relax.  don't be in such a hurry to get married.  I don't think you need legal docs at this point (a marriage license).  A business partnership is not unlike courting a cofounder - it's a dating process.  The first order of business is to get to know each other.  Be prepared to discuss what you think you know about them and why you think a partnership MIGHT make sense, but do more listening than talking - you want to get to know them.  Ask them what other partnerships they have, are any competitors of yours, which ones do they think are their best partnerships and why?  You need to understand their needs/wants first before you 'propose'.  Unless the meeting will be you and a room full of their execs i would not even prepare a formal presentation. In fact if this first meeting is other than 1 or 2 from your side and 1 or 2 from theirs i would reset expectations - i would not request a room full of execs.  If this is the fist meeting you are unlikely to know enough about them to intelligently propose a partnership.  You walk into a room full of execs without first doing your homework and without an internal champion and you are more likely to make a fool of yourself than to walk out with a solid agreement.  You would be wise to have at least 1 or 2 low-key meetings first.  If it still makes sense then ask this first contact if they can play 'ambassador'.  Then with the help of this ambassador (champion) you can put together a well-informed presentation to get buy-in from the right players.  Not knowing what type of partnership you are after or the industry it is hard to give more than generic advise.  

Alexander Opeagbe M&A & Corporate Finance

June 21st, 2016

Hi Joshua, It all depends on the basis of the meeting. If this is the first meeting with them, it's mostly going to consist of developing a relationship and get a common understanding of how you both could work together. A deck is definitely one to go with, short, simple and straight to the point. I think to too early to bring legal documents at this stage. Best, Alex

Kelly Kuhn-Wallace Tech startup consultant, founder coach.

June 21st, 2016

An introductory, in-person meeting sets the tone for your on-going relationship with this potential partner. Your plan sets you up to be read as sales-focused and transactional...concerned only with the surface, confident. A deck that outlines mutual benefits at a prelim meeting could be construed as presumptuous unless you have had significant dialogue prior to the meeting.

This approach could be appropriate for your business. If you need to sign hundreds of partners and the boundaries of the partnership are clearly defined, transactional is your game. I would recommend hosting and signing all partnership documents in a shared contract space. There's no harm in bringing hardcopy with you, but in most cases the digital version will be a follow-up item.

The more undefined your partnership or alliance is, the more unstructured your meeting should be. If the terms of the deal are far from being worked out (or you know what you want but haven't heard much from the potential partner -- that is still only 50% and only a wishlist), leave that deck and those legal documents in the cloud. First, listen. Ask. What is the partner trying to accomplish right now? What are their roadblocks? Then if there's any time left, you can discuss how you can help the partner succeed.

The next meeting you can discuss your business and the possibilities for strategic partnerships. And even later, how to monetize the thing. The most valuable partnerships are formed when both sides are willing to give -- and if that's your company, send that message at the first meeting.

Norma Watenpaugh Expert in Collaborative Business Relationships and Ecosytems

June 21st, 2016

Hello Joshua. You are already miles ahead in uderstanding you need to bring a value prop to your partner. You need to also to address how the partnership brings value to customers. The creates a focal point for the discussion that is value creation vs value dividing. Be prepared to be surprised if your original ideas are changed significantly once you engage with partners. I would also suggest you don't rush to sign an agreement other than an NDA. spend time to design the partnership so that you and your partner have a realistic expectations and you are sure you can work together productively. Good luck Norma

Melissa Vincent

June 22nd, 2016

Hey Joshua-
Congrats on getting an initial partnership meeting.  I agree with a lot of the great advice given on here so far.

On whether or not to bring legal docs, I agree with some of the other advice that you probably want to leave those behind as anything that would be in those will most likely have to be customized.  

As to whether you should go over the PPT or not during the first meeting, a lot of that depends on your comfort level and the personalities of the people you are meeting with and the setting you are meeting in.  If this is a more informal meeting, then I would go in with it prepared, but plan not to use it unless it feels necessary.  

The first in-person meeting is usually a great opportunity to just hear about the potential partner's needs and get a sense of where there might be natural incentive alignment.

Having additional items like your PPT deck or legal docs are great items to close out the meeting with as a next step.  Being able to close a meeting strong with solid next steps like "I'll send you a deck to review with some additional resources and then let's schedule time to meet again after that to go over any additional questions or action items that come up" is a great way to get to a second meeting.  

It will also allow you to have more time between the first and second meeting to put together some possible terms on what the partnership could look like from the feedback that you'll get from the initial meeting.  Saving those assumptions on terms until after your initial meeting will ultimately show them that you really listened to their needs and came back with terms that you feel will work for both organizations.

Good luck with the meeting!!!


Chicke Fitzgerald

June 21st, 2016

Joshua - good for you!  How exciting.   Personally, I would have a folder with the legal document ready, but offer to go back and customize them after you learn what the nuances and fine points are (beyond just needing their info).  

Hopefully you have done your due diligence on them as a partner.  Since you haven't said what kind of partner they are, it is tough to give you more specific advice.

Good luck.

Chicke Fitzgerald

June 21st, 2016

Great advice Rob.  I was assuming that the preliminaries had been discussed already by phone, but you are right, if it is the first real meeting at all, then documents are premature.  

Andrew Chapman Publishing Entrepreneur and Author

June 21st, 2016

Great, Joshua -- congrats! Having an agreement ready depends on a lot of factors, but almost certainly it'll go through some back-and-forth anyhow, which means you'll likely need to send it to them in Word. What I'd add, though, is a nice leave-behind. Good to have your PowerPoint, but better to include something to give each of the participants that reflects your presentation with additional info. But don't give it to them before your presentation or they'll be inclined to look at it and ignore you (when part of what you need to convey is your character and passion). Just let them know as you start your presentation that you'll have this for them, so they don't need to take full notes. Depending on all the factors, this could be a simple one-sheet all the way up to a bound nicely produced multi-page document. Once you're done with Q&A, pass it out. And bring extras in case anyone gets pulled into the meeting unexpectedly at the last minute. Good luck!

Andrew Chapman Publishing Entrepreneur and Author

June 21st, 2016

I second what the others wrote, based on the variables as to where you are in this process right now. Especially good point about more listening than talking!

Ken Berkun Entrepreneur

June 21st, 2016

All good advice so far, I'll just toss in one thing - have your first meetings with your least likely partners.  You'll gain needed practice so that when you meet with the folks most likely to do a deal with you you'll have the experience you need.