Rebuilding: what can London Bridge teach us about partnerships?

London Bridge - from UK to US

London Bridge – from UK to US

London Bridge could easily be called the bridge of four lives. We are most familiar with it because of the nursery rhyme “London Bridge is falling down, falling down,…”
Life 1) in disrepair it was pulled down by the Vikings in 1014 and this is when the rhyme originated.

Life 2) the next version “Old London Bridge” was completed in 1209 and lasted 600 years.

Life 3) in disrepair again, it was replaced in 1831 and made of granite. Alas, the soil beneath its foundation could not support the weight and usage. The bridge was sinking one inch every eight years.

Life 4) in need of being removed and replaced yet again, the city of London sought to sell the bridge and find a way to preserve its heritage and cultural value. About 1968, the bridge was bought, dismantled, shipped and rebuilt over Lake Havasu in Arizona, U.S., by American entrepreneur/developer, Robert P. McCulloch. London Bridge was thus reincarnated and began its fourth life in 1971 in a new country over new waters.

On rebuilding: What can the London Bridge teach us about business partnerships?

Over time, partnerships like bridges can become in need of repair. And, if it’s not completely broken, most partnerships can be repaired and strengthened in the process. This is especially the case when the individuals in the partner entities still desire to do business together. Causes for repair fall into a variety of categories, including:

• No longer a fit because of business evolution – before ending a partnership are there other assets that were not used originally that can be pulled in to rebuild it?

• Underutilization – this can create opportunity to explore solutions, make improvements and develop new value for all partners

• Overutilization which can’t effectively scale in its current structure – this can be seen as a good problem if there’s evidence of high customer demand and is, therefore, an opportunity to insert new technology or additional partners to help it better scale

• New partners emerge that cause a ripple of changes in existing partnerships – this can happen with a change in key individuals within the existing partner entities or with actual new businesses that enter a partnership agreement on either side which can create a sense of instability in the original structure. New partners and/or new key leaders give rise to fresh and innovative conversations. Time to gather all parties to rebuild alignment, understanding and to agree on plans for future growth.

• Financial difficulties challenging one or both partners – this is a time for honesty and transparency. If there’s still desire to continue the partnership then compromises, investments, short term modifications, additional partners or improved processes can sometimes help in bridging over the rough waters.

Share a partnership that broke and how you repaired it.

Part of a series: Causeways-business insight from the world’s most celebrated bridges
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