David Goldsmith, president and cofounder of New York– based MetaMatrix Consulting Group, has defined seven kinds of alliance relationships, all contributors to your personal and professional success. In all my work with decision makers, I find it important that everyone know early on in the game what type of relationship is being developed. This common language, drawn from a variety of sources, makes progress happen fast.

Affiliate relationship

A partnership that allows two parties to work together with minimal risk to either party. For example, one company may promote another one on its web site, where both parties have a limited investment and risk in the relationship.

Ad-hoc relationship

A type of relationship that is normally formed for the purposes of solving or looking into a particular challenge. In politics, for instance, you’ll hear that an ad hoc committee has been established to review the need for a new sewage plant.


A consortium occurs when a group of people combine their resources, enabling them to achieve significantly more than any individual could individually. Associations and chambers of commerce are a very well known type of consortium. Each member contributes just a few dollars per year, and in return receives the benefits of all the funds provided by the members.

Project joint venture

A relationship in which two parties agree to work together in such a manner that resources from both parties are used, but on a limited scale. The hiring of a printer to print a brochure or when two parties put on an event are examples of such a relationship.

Joint venture

A type of relationship that requires that both parties commit to working together to the degree that if one fails, the other fails, and if successful, they both partake of the reward.
Merger—when two parties agree that joining together as one would be better for everyone involved and the combined efforts would produce more than each one could individually.


Accquisitions differ substantially from a merger in that in an acquisition, one party believes that the relationship would be best for both when joined even if the other disagrees.

When an organization or an individual looks to develop a relationship, it’s extremely important that all parties understand what they’re actually trying to achieve. Mistakes are avoided and the desired outcomes are achieved at an accelerated pace by defining what each organization desires early on in the dialogue. Think about it this way: If you see a marriage as a joint venture but your partner sees it as a project joint venture . . . well, you’re in for trouble.

How well do a group of individuals work well together in a team-based environment? Take our Free Relationship DNA assessment to identify the team attributes in one of four quadrants with a high level profile and a set of recommendations.

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