Do you really need a partner?
Do not enter into a partnering arrangement just because it is fashionable. Undertake a value management exercise to see whether effective change can be internalised: carry out an audit of your staff, resources and premises. You may find that you do not need to partner to solve your problems.

Take your time and choose carefully
You will not find a partner overnight. When you do find likely candidates, meet the people you will actually work with and ask them direct questions.

Be prepared for change
Ask your partners what they want: it is a two-way street. Prepare to adopt different payment periods, share office space, swap staff, absorb new administration processes and do away with preconception. Provide incentives for your own staff to break down the barriers between "them" and "us".

You still need a contract
Don't be naive. Jointly select an appropriate contract based on sound commercial reasoning. Do not be afraid to develop new approaches or strategies together, being aware of any procurement rules or legislation. Consider what happens if you wish to end the relationship.

Continuous improvement
Develop the process and relationship as you proceed. Do not get hung up on meaningless performance targets, and be realistic about timeframes and goals. Share information with others. Be patient.