Two heads are better than one, as the saying goes.
When people talk about great successes in history, it’s always remembered that no one ever did anything by themselves. The biggest names in the world had people supporting them.
Orville Wright had Wilbur Wright, and their partnership gave us the manned flight. George Washington was just one of the founding fathers. Michael Jordan had Scottie Pippen.
7 Lessons To Remember About Partnerships
The point is, you can always achieve more with partners than on your own. While you may be a brilliant engineer, you’ll still need someone equally brilliant at sales and marketing or financing to bring your dream to life.
Which is why it’s always tempting to just hop into a business partnership with someone when you seem (on the surface, at least) to click.
But before you commit to a relationship that you’ll devote time and equity to, keep in mind a few lessons
1. Get It In Writing
It doesn’t matter if you’re the best of friends or complete strangers, or something in the middle, get your agreements in writing.
One of the toughest things in any startup is arguments between co-founders.
But they happen. All too often.
Most of the time these fights are because of a disagreement or miscommunication about whose responsibility something is, or about money and equity.
The easiest way to avoid this is to put everything in writing right from the start.
State what each person’s role and responsibility is. State what each person earns and will continue to earn.
Document exit strategies and anything else that might come up.
This isn’t just about trust, it’s about making sure that everyone is on the same page. Sometimes, people may agree to the same principles but misinterpret what that actually entails.
The best thing you can do for your business or partnership is to get everything in writing ahead of time to prevent miscommunication down the road.
2. Give It Time
Sometimes, you go into business with your best friend and already know everything there is to know about each other. However, more often than not you’ll meet your new partner at an event or in a classroom.
And while everything seems great at the time, things change. As do people.
Which is why it’s so important to really understand someone.
You wouldn’t just get married to someone without dating first, would you?
Business works the same way.
You’re committing to each other, and putting everything you have on the line. So it’s in your best interest to test the waters first.
All parties involved should work together on smaller projects initially to make sure everyone works well together.
If you can’t get through a few small projects together without problems, how can you get through your big project and build your dream?
While you may be in a hurry to get started on your vision, slow down and give your partnership time to properly develop before making it official.
Taking your time at the start can save you a lot of time and grief down the road.
3. Move Forward By Taking A Step Back
The focus of a partnership is to shore up each other’s weaknesses.
When looking for partners, remember to look for people who can do things that you can’t. Or things that you don’t do well.
You have the vision, and your skill sets may be invaluable, but you cannot do everything alone.
It’s okay to give up some control to move your company forward.
Your fear of letting someone else control the message may restrict you from giving up control of the marketing, even if you have no experience in sales and marketing.
That’s a recipe for disaster.
Be willing to let others help you, and look for people whose strengths pair with your weaknesses.
It’s okay to have weaknesses. The best way to overcome them is to partner with someone who has different weaknesses and work together as partners to become more than the sum of your working parts.
Don’t let ego or pride stand in the way of working with a truly great partner just because you’re worried about going unnoticed.
Take a step back to move forward.
4. Get To (Really) Know Each Other
While you may know someone fairly well on the surface, do you know each other’s strengths and weaknesses? Start by understanding your own and your partner’s characteristics.
The best way to do that is to invest in personality tests. Some, such as Myers Briggs, are free. There are also strength assessments, such as the Clifton Strengthsfinder.
For teams, each member may want to invest in a deep dive, such as the Kolbe A Index, which shows individuals not only their own strengths but who they should work with to get the best results out of a team project.
Keep in mind that if you expect your prospective partners to take these tests, you need to know your own results as well.
Invest in understanding yourself so that you can improve yourself, and get to really know your future partners by going over your results together to make sure your team is a good fit and all missing pieces are accounted for.
5. Get Clear
Language is a funny thing. We say one thing, and someone hears another. That leads a lot of partnerships to fall apart due to misunderstandings. Which is why it’s so important that you and your partners are all on the same page.
Do you know the 4 most frustrating words in the business world?
“That’s not my job.”
Everyone’s roles and responsibilities should be laid out in plain English so there are no questions about who is responsible for what. And more than that, everyone needs to be on the same page as far as your partnership.
What are your goals?
Are you in it for money or to help the world?
Do you want to exit your startup or keep it forever?
These are basic partner questions where everyone has to be on the same page.
Make sure your core values are aligned in order to get clear and minimize any arguments down the road.
6. Think Long Term
The purpose of settling business partnerships is to get things done better and faster. Successful partnerships are a result of two individuals ambitions who are willing to risk a lot to achieve their goals.
That kind of success isn’t achieved without moving beyond the short-term goals.
As you build your business relationship with one another make sure to know and understand the true individual motivations you both have for running your business.
In that way, you would be able to align your long-term goals and clearly show what’s not only in it for you, but for your business partner as well.
Having the initiative to listen to one another ensures that you are both on the same page when it comes to the success of your business. Approaching it this way will ensure a healthier business relationship moving forward and will help avoid messy second-guessing.
7. It’s Never Too Late To Leave
You don’t hold on to a mistake just because you spent a long time making it. It’s the same in the world of business and startups.
If a relationship with a partner isn’t working, it’s okay to walk away from the deal.
Just make sure that you have contingencies for that laid out in writing ahead of time.
Otherwise, things can get messy about who’s entitled to what.
If you feel the partnership you’re in isn’t working, you need to address the issue with your partners. Don’t put it off just because you want to avoid an uncomfortable or awkward confrontation.
By delaying, you can be doing harm to your personal relationships and your business.
The earlier you have this talk, the better. But it’s never too late to leave.
Running a business ain’t the easiest thing in the world, and having some help running it surely takes some weight off your shoulder.
If you put the time and effort into it, business partnerships can be rewarding experiences. But it is also important to be realistic and know that just like any relationship, there’s always a chance that it might not work out.
Whichever way it goes, business partnerships can be great lessons on personal and professional growth leading to possibly much bigger things.