When you think about the word 'partnership,' what images come to mind? Some may say shaking hands, others may say a signed contract, and still others may see images of long-lasting relationships that continue far into the future. All of these are great scenarios, but these situations are not created overnight. Partnership is arduous work. It's valuable work, but it takes time and patience. Most of all, though, it takes trust, open and honest communication, and a mutual shared vision.

I think one of the best examples of the most successful business partnerships in the world can be found in the music industry. When we listen to music most of us are completely unaware of the business partnerships behind the scenes that make the finished product a reality. Paul McCartney recently said that there had to be faith for The Beatles to have achieved their unparalleled success. Without this faith, or belief in each person and the possibilities of what they could create, The Beatles would not be who they are today. "George Martin had to have faith in us, Brian Epstein had to have faith in us and we had to have faith in each other."

This mutual certainty in each other could be seen as the crux of their success. We know that the four Beatles trusted each other. They trusted their producer George Martin and their manager Brian Epstein, and this trust was a mutually shared conviction between everyone involved in The Beatles' potential successes. The same is true in the more traditional business world. The essential foundation of a sound strategic partnership is trust; trust that the partners will honor their commitment to each other to see things through to a successful end result. Without integrity and conviction, there can be no trust; and without trust, there can be no long-lasting, constructive business relationship. This trust must be nurtured in every department in both organizations to create a worthwhile partnership.

To achieve this trust, there must be open and honest communication. That is, being willing to say no or push back and find other options or refinements when something doesn't make sense or is not working exactly right. The ability to address issues as they arise, interact positively to find solutions, and openly discuss plans and goals is imperative for a successful partnership. When the Beatles first presented their song "Please Please Me" to George Martin, he told them that they needed to "speed it up." They heeded his advice and recorded the last take, after which Martin proclaimed, "Gentleman you have just made your first #1 single." This truthfulness is just one example of how honest communication can have a massive impact on an outcome when partnering with others.

In addition to this trust and communication, both organizations must share the same vision and long-term goals. Each organization has their specific talents, expertise and resources that they contribute to their common goals. Everyone involved must be on the same page for these strengths to optimally complement each other along the path to achieving these goals. While on that path, certain milestones need to be established with identified accountability rules that have enforced consequences. And the resulting shared vision must be felt and understood intra-organizationally as well as cross-organizationally. When both parties have trust, communication and this shared vision lined up in perfect harmony, the result can be a long-lasting, invaluable partnership that can benefit both organizations for years to come.