Beware of Barney partnerships

I’ve been spending a lot of time recently discussing various partnerships with other companies. As an early startup, partnership/business development agreements are critical to the growth of the company. Right now, we have a good problem to deal with in this area: there are far more good partnership opportunties that are coming our way than we have time to handle. Therefore, we have to be selective, and make sure that any partnership we enter into helps us achieve our company’s goals.

I was talking about this with one of Punchbowl’s board members recently, and he passed on a gem that he heard from another one of our board members. “Beware of Barney partnerships” he said. As you can imagine, I was pretty confused. “What’s a Barney partnership?” I asked.

A Barney partnership is one where the companies declare that “I love you” and “You love me” but nothing of material significance transpires (often the signal of a Barney partnership is a press release that says very little). For those of you who don’t know, Barney is a purple dinosaur who sings the repetitive “I love you, you love me” lyrics on a popular children’s show (if you don’t know Barney, where have you been living?!).


It turns out that this is a fairly well-known concept. Here are a couple of interesting articles that discuss Barney partnerships.

If you’re working on a business development relationship, here are some quick questions to ask yourself before entering into a partnership agreement:

1) Does this partnership help you get closer to your company’s goals? How? In what way? Answer this question with specifics.

2) Is either party overly concerned with the press announcement about the partnership? Sure it has value, but the real value should be in the business relationship, not in a marketing activity.

3) Is there anything of material value changing hands in the partnership? If not, it’s a likely sign of a Barney partnership.

4) Is the partnership a distraction for your company or right in-line with the organization’s goals? If you’re hesitant to get your engineering team involved with the partnership, it likely because the partnership is more of a distraction than it is worth.

5) Can your company achieve its goals without the partnership? If so, it’s likely that external pressures are causing you to place too much emphasis on the partnership. Refer to questions 1-4. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Final note: If you currently considering a partnership with Punchbowl Software, how does the potential partnership stack up against these questions for you?


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