alliance exp


How do you organise joint activities when you don’t want any of the partners to be boss? And how do you deal with conflicting commercial interests so that all partners profit from the collective endeavour?


This spring I had some interesting discussions with Alfred Griffioen. He heads up Alliance Experts, a team of professionals who assist commercial companies in building alliances. It consists of eight partners and at least eight different models for different types of contracts for companies wishing to join forces.


Alfred has facilitated partnerships such as that between Philips Electronics and Douwe Egberts, who developed the Senseo together, a new concept in home coffee machines. Alfred assisted in working out a business model that distributed gains, costs and risks in a satisfactory way for both.


Judith Gerretsen, a former participant in my course “Working with Networks” in Wageningen Business School, made the initial contact. She was, and still is, enthusiastic about the network approach, even assisting as a co-trainer in a later course, and had recently joined Alfred’s team. She seeks to complement the hard side of alliances such as contract arrangements, with the softer side. Her work is to turn an alliance of different businesses into a living network of enthusiastic partners. The FAN network tools are useful for this.


We agreed to look for opportunities to collaborate. For me this signals a new step. Up to now, I have worked almost exclusively in the non-profit and government sectors, where people usually operate from ideals. What if profit is the only ideal? A title such as Tools For Idealists, a working title for my upcoming book, would not be taken seriously in the commercial word.


Yet I still believe that genuine ambitions are always serving. The goal of amassing capital only is empty and addictive.


In healthy networks, entrepreneurs are also serving:

  • They produce something that serves clients.
  • They serve the workers who earn a livelihood from them.
  • They serve society by keeping the economy going.


Of course, they can only keep doing so if they make a profit. The profit is a means, not a goal in itself.


I’m curious to see where this connection will lead us.