Internal team members aren’t the only key players when undertaking a project. Clients, vendors, partners – they’re all part of one (hopefully) happy family.

Of course, getting along with partners can be tricky business and aligning work culture across hybrid teams requires some effort. Though you may be anxious to jump into the project, it’s important to first get your hybrid team ready to work together.

Creating a shared culture is central to any project’s success. To help you cultivate shared culture, we’ll go over nine tips for strengthening partnerships and processes.

1. Start by understanding your partner’s story

Shared culture can only be created through understanding. It’s about knowing your partner’s story and how they envision the future. In this way, you can join their passion and goals in a synergic way, expanding your story together and building a future. This understanding starts with listening, learning and bringing together talented people.

2. A great product requires combining skills that internal teams don’t always have

A team may have the most talented internal members in the world. However, there are always skills that your company doesn’t necessarily have. Recognizing the role of a partner’s skills is key to building mutual understanding. The best partnerships recognize the value of each party’s skills in creating a high-quality product. Only together can you build something great.

3. Go from vendor relationship to partner relationship

Vendors aren’t quite the same thing as partners. Vendors simply provide services for a company. They don’t have a collaborative or critical role in making project decisions or working together towards a common goal. Transforming a vendor relationship into a partner relationship is ideal. Instead of just fulfilling an order, a partner can lend their expertise and contribute to a better final product.

4. Build a hybrid team under the same mission

Hybrid teams may have diverse skills and values. That’s why as you bring together internal and external team members, the mission is the glue. By defining a mission – usually an end product – your hybrid team will look in the same direction and bond through this joint challenge. It’s a good idea to clearly set this mission from the start.

5. Establish clear and shared goals

In addition to the mission, it’s important for your hybrid team to have shared goals. Leaders have to make sure the goals and purposes are known and embraced by all team members, so that effective working methods and processes are achieved. These milestones help keep together teams, so everybody has a clear understanding of what’s next. Often teams can be derailed by a lack of project definition. If it’s not clear what the team is working towards, they won’t share priorities and expectations.

6. Define and iterate working processes as a team

When executing projects together, teams typically introduce the paradigm, processes and methodology that have best worked with other similar projects (such as Agile and Lean). Having a defined process changes the way teams work, collaborate and communicate on a daily basis. As a hybrid team gets experience, they can also challenge earlier definitions and look for ways of making processes more effective, efficient and easy for all team members.

7. Have management roles on the partner’s side

Another best practice for building shared culture is to have management roles on the partner’s side. These managers can help mold culture through their leadership. It’s more challenging to create a collaborative culture when there’s no partner leadership. Without this equal footing, external team members may not feel comfortable offering their expertise and making project decisions together.

8. Enable clear and open communication across hybrid teams

Hybrid teams will benefit from talking regularly with each other. It’s important to build these communication bridges so that there are no obstacles to collaboration. Make sure that both internal and external team members have the means to communicate well, including partner meetings, discussion boards and bonding activities. At the same time, finding opportunities to celebrate accomplishments and share thoughts, stories or maybe just jokes, could lead to creating those bridges. This way, teams can get to know each other on different levels, gain trust and enjoy their time together.

9. Define a model for successful partnerships

As you get experience with different partners, you can better build a model for sharing culture. We recommend discussing with your partners what kind of partnership they want to cultivate. Defining the model for partnership will get everybody on the same page and open communication among players. This model can be the basis for building relationships, culture and future work together.

At the end of the day, culture reaches all levels of an organization – and partners are no exception. As you create a shared culture to optimize collaboration, you can use these nine tips as guidance. Happy team-building!