It sounds like a bit of a cliché, but in reality a good business partnership is a lot like a good marriage. This applies to individuals in a single business or one or more businesses partnering in the marketplace.
Since people have a propensity to look at the world through a "What's in it for me?" lens, this is also how most partnerships end up working.
In marriage, if you have a "What's in it for me attitude?" then I would suggest your marriage is doomed from the get go. Sure you need to get something from it, but the marriages that really work over the long-term do so when you look at the world from a different perspective… "What can I do for my partner without expecting an immediate return?" or "What can I do for us?". These broader perspectives change things from a short-term gain to a longer-term investment that can really pay off over time. Both partners need to adopt this strategy and it's the "love" that keeps it working.
Most business to business partnerships end up being short-term focused. They create short-term win/win scenarios that are really take-take. The partnership only succeeds if there continues to be rewards on both sides and conversely, falls apart as soon as one party does not win.
From my experience and observations, many businesses enter into partnerships looking for others to provide. They will provide a service in fair trade but ultimately, they don't give to the relationship. They expect the partner to do most of the work. Then when things don't work out they come up with tons of reasons why it is the other party's fault the relationship didn't work.
The same is true in networking. Anyone can go to events and gather business cards… that part is easy. Taking from a network may work short-term but people remember. To build long-term relationships and have a network that you can count on to give back to you, you first need to give. You will not always get something in return but the act of giving, without obligation or expectation can bear fruit many seasons out.
The reality is that it's all about relationships and people. Just like a marriage, people associate, do business with and support those that they have a good connection with… those that give to the relationship freely.
It's one of the hardest things to do. Give to a business relationship without always expecting a direct return. Business people don't think enough about non-monetary rewards or long-term paybacks. We are too busy trying to be successful today to invest in things that may bring success tomorrow or in ways we didn't expect.
But ultimately, the truly successful business partnerships will be between businesses and people who genuinely care about each other's success.