30 Oct

Business partnerships – for better or worse

Going into a business partnership is like going into a marriage partnership. When you first meet this person, you get on like a house on fire. Something ignites your interest about them, perhaps an idea or a shared passion for a particular sport or hobby. You believe it’s a match made in heaven and the first couple of months, the honeymoon period is fabulous and exciting and it feels like it will last forever. It feels like you can achieve anything!

Alas, over the coming months and years you start to realise that the person you went into business with, is actually not the person you thought they were, which can turn into a stressful and frustrating situation. What went wrong?

A business partnership will only last the crazy ups and downs if the right match-making components are there. Let’s run through a few of these:

  1. Shared vision and values – Sharing similar interests outside of the working environment is fantastic, but it’s not what’s going to keep your partnership together through the rough patches. What will pull you through the hard times is your shared vision for the business together with a shared set of personal and business values. Before entering a partnership with someone, clarify their personal and business goals. Are yours similar, symbiotic, or do they clash? These shared values will also impact your business culture and how you appear to your target market. Set a strong foundation from the beginning. This starts with a common vision and values.
  2. Communication – All of these points are essential, but effective communication is probably the most important component when it comes to building a strong and sustainable partnership. Business partners should be constantly communicating with each other. Sharing ideas, listening to each other, making time to discuss and debate. Regular, honest communication allows for any misunderstandings or potential issues to be raised and managed. It allows for feelings and emotions to be shared. If business partners can focus on having these types of engagements on a regular basis, it will help to build and maintain a powerful partnership. Always make time for regular communication sessions with your business partner(s).
  3. Acknowledging strengths and weaknesses – Not everyone in the world will be like you. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, therefore acknowledge the fact that your business partner(s) may share similar values and traits as you, but they also have their own unique set of characteristics, strengths and challenges. Learning to leverage each other’s strengths and support each other’s challenges is a sign of a true partnership. Demanding that they think and operate like you, is the first step to destroying that partnership. Acknowledge each other’s differences and then come up with a strategy of how to overcome any hurdles together.
  4. Clarity of roles – Depending on the size of your business, you may be one of the partners/owners, but you and your business partner(s) may also have additional roles within the business. To ensure that nothing falls through the gaps and to run a transparent operation, you should also have clarity around your partnership roles and responsibilities. Ensuring there is a process in place to hold each other accountable. Sharing these roles and responsibilities with your team will also help to decrease any confusion.
  5. Respect – “Respect means you care enough to think about others’ feelings before you act.” – Anonymous. Going into partnership with another person is not just about sharing the business expenses, profits, wins and losses. A partnership should be founded on respect. Ensuring there is a united front, a shared vision and that during times of adversity you have your partner’s back. There will always be times of conflict in a partnership, but when all is said and done, that conflict should never be able to damage the respect you have for each other. That is the sign of a true partnership.

So, the next time you get excited about a potential partnership, think about these points before jumping in, and if you are currently in a partnership, can you confirm that these components are main focuses in the partnership?