One of the best parts of working for yourself is getting to choose who you surround yourself with, a business partner, and which projects you take on. In working to build your passions, it can be tempting to enlist your favorite people—your friends, your family, your workplace besties—to join you on the journey. And in theory, this seems like a good idea; however, business partnerships, like marriages, require more than just love and passion to work out in the long run.
If you are looking to create the strongest partnerships possible, here are my top five tips:
1. Communication. Oh my gosh! Communication is literally everything! Make sure the person you choose as a partner is someone who has either superior communication skills or who has a comfortable enough relationship with you that you feel at ease communicating. Be advised: Communication is more than just answering an email. True communication is an incredibly important process within leadership that encompasses verbal and nonverbal means. Before committing to a partner, make sure you communicate well with one another.
2. Like and different skills. You like underwater basket weaving, and so does your partner … the problem is that if all you bring to the table is a like-minded love of your profession, you could be headed towards trouble. The key is to find a partner with similar, complementary skills. I always look for one of three attributes, so ask yourself these questions:
- Does this person contribute expertise I do not have?
- Does this person contribute time I do not have?
- Does this person contribute financial assets I do not have?
If the answer is “no” to all of these questions, then why would they make a good partner? What can they contribute to your establishment that you cannot? Sometimes these are easy questions to answer, and sometimes these are harder than you could imagine. If you are set on your BFF being a part of your company, but they literally have nothing to contribute, then you are going to have to make some difficult decisions … and have some difficult conversations.
3. Goals and values. It is exceedingly important that you and your partner have the same goals and values for your business. If you dream of opening a new daycare facility, and your partner wants to explore continuing education for kids, there is a chance your dreams can co-exist; however, it’s more likely that neither of your needs will be met. You and your partner must share the same overall goals, values, ethics, and agendas if you hope to succeed in any capacity.
4. Make it clear … and legal. I cannot tell you how many business partnerships I have consulted with where there is absolutely no paperwork or systems set-up. This might work in the short term, but for long-term stability, it’s extremely important that you clearly define each partner’s roles within the company and write it down in the form of a formal Partnership Agreement. Having the proper paperwork (aka a legal document) will not only clarify your individual roles within the company, but will also define your initial contributions, conflict resolutions, and eventually what happens to the business if one partner leaves (willingly or otherwise). Moreover, it can help simplify issues for clients and staff, as they will know who to confront with their specific needs.
5. Honesty. Honesty is the best policy. Yes, it is important to maintain decorum and professionalism; however, a true partner is one with whom you can be absolutely honest—no matter how painful the conversation. Passive-aggressively ignoring problems or “letting things go” will only lead to bitterness, resentment, and the downfall of your once glorious partnership. It’s okay to tread lightly on certain subject matter, but you should never scurry around, or avoid it altogether.
Having a partner in your business can be so fulfilling, especially when times are tough and you automatically have a shoulder to cry on and a brainstorming buddy. But choosing the wrong partner can create more headaches and heartache than your business (or you) will be able to withstand. Choose your partner in business with the same care you would choose a partner in marriage and you will be on the right path to success.