Entrepreneurs often ask me about business partnerships. Are they life-changing assets or trouble-in-the-making? What makes a partnership flourish? And what makes one breakdown?
They do well to ask – a business alliance isn’t destined for success simply because it works on paper.
Trust me, I’ve experienced my personal share of partnership woes over the years. I’ve also heard countless toe-curling stories from friends and colleagues. And what I’ve learned from all these accounts is that a business partnership is like a marriage. It takes mutual trust to work; the financial commitment is often huge; a shared vision is essential, and you have to truly like your partner (think of all those hours spent together) for the relationship to stay strong. If you’re signing up with more than one partner, the challenges are only compounded.
Partnerships generally start with enthusiasm and high expectations, and during times of bounty, everyone is happy. But a true test of a partnership – and a test of the personalities involved – comes when problems arise. So it’s crucial to know as much as possible about a potential partner before joining forces. During your fact-gathering phase, be sure to enquire about your prospective partner’s finances and family life, and how these might affect the business.
Here are other important points to consider before signing on the dotted line:
Find Partner with different skills to yours – and you’ll rock together!
You need someone who complements your skills and personality. Being with someone similar to you might make you more comfortable at first, but the arrangement risks backfiring in the long-run. So…
- If you’re creative, look for a more detail-oriented and systematic partner.
- If you have money to invest in the business, look for a partner with access to a market, or someone with great connections.
- If you’re shy, consider a partner with great interpersonal skills for balance.
- If you have excellent finance skills but are poor on digital marketing, consider a partner who understands how to build a strong online presence.
The more skills you and your partner bring to the business, the easier it will be to start, plan, grow and run your business.
A partner with a growth mindset will supercharge your business
I can’t emphasise enough the importance of finding a partner who holds a growth mindset. Such individuals believe people aren’t born with a fixed set of abilities, intelligences or talents but that skills can be developed and learned through effort and perseverance. These people…
- Embrace a challenge: They know you become better at a job and stronger by overcoming challenges. They love stepping out of their comfort zones and expanding their skill set – and of course your business benefits.
- Are happy to put in a lot of effort: They understand that effort is the path to the mastery. Let’s be clear – when it comes to running a successful business, there’s no substitute for hard work.
- Don’t get discouraged by setbacks: Their self-image is not defined by what others think of them, and they know failures are the best opportunity for learning. Running a business is littered with obstacles. Having a business partner who isn’t paralysed by adversity but instead analyses the problem, lists steps to be taken and finally takes action – is worth its weight in gold.
- Understand that feedback on their capabilities isn’t personal criticism: They see feedback as a valuable opportunity for growth. Dealing with negative comments from customers, employees and contractors can be daunting if it’s not taken with the right attitude.
- See the success of others as a source of inspiration – something they can learn from, not something to envy or beat themselves up over. These individuals move towards successful people, seeing time spent in their company as an opportunity to ‘learn from the best’.
Look for triple E and double V
It’s important to look for a partner with the same energy, enthusiasm and entrepreneurial spirit as you. You also need to share the same vision about your business and similar values. Strong communication is vital, so that together you and your partner can make good decisions, set goals, and drive the business forward. If your partner turns out to be combative, or either reluctant or unable to consider your viewpoint, your partnership is destined for the rocks.
A partner with resources and credibility will boost your business
It’s great to have a business partner with financial resources, but there are other equally valuable contributions a partner can make. A partner with a strong business network, industry connections, healthy client list, or certain credentials and expertise can increase the value of your business immeasurably and improve your chances of long-term success.
Mutual respect is a key for flourishing partnership
You should never partner with someone who you don’t respect – or who doesn’t respect you. The main purpose in forming a partnership is to achieve success as a team. Even if you like a person, if you don’t respect them on a professional level, you’ll struggle to value their opinion or the efforts they put into the business.
You’ve found the perfect partner – can the contact be drawn up now?
Not so fast! There’s still much to investigate before the two of you should through with your partnership nuptials. In Part 2 of this article, I’ll be discussing distrust, dirty secrets and other unpleasant surprises guaranteed to make you regret pronouncing ‘I do’.