While many business partnerships in history have been formed on a whim, few stay together if all parties aren’t completely invested in the company and in each other’s ultimate success.
I was in a ‘bad’ business partnership. The reason for the failing partnership is the same old cliche: We don’t share the same vision. We have skills that complement, we understand how to execute, and we know what drive profits.
Unfortunately, there is one major ‘flaw’ in the partnership: My partner aims to make the business work – as one of his side hustles, I – at that time – considered the business as my main hustle. This results in differences in priorities, which create imbalances – especially in our sense of urgency. To cut a long story short, the business partnership failed.
As you can see from my experience, finding the right chemistry between you and your future partner is truly like driving a long road with tight curves. Turning your wheel at the wrong time will cause your car to skid off the road. If you can handle your car well, you’ll be fine.
A business partnership can work; it offers enormous potential – if done right. The big question is: How? The answer is yours to find, but I do have a guide on what makes partnerships work – or not. The following 6 traits can make or break a partnership before the first purchase order is ever filled:
How many partnerships have you heard of failing because the founders don’t agree on one or many aspects of how the business is run such as expansion goals, its products and services, and where it’s ultimately going in the future? Too many to count I’d hazard a guess. Lack of vision, much like a negative personality, is very toxic to the bottom line of any business partnership.
Sergey Brin and Larry Page are such a partnership with two initial partners who agreed on the direction they wanted to take Google in its early stages, and even to this day they remain firmly united in their vision. Take a look at the company’s time-line and all the calculated steps the pair took to make the search engine what it is today (Google Timeline).
#2. They define who the real boss is
Partnerships come in all shapes and sizes. Most successful partnerships have a combination of visionaries and those who’re good at making things happen. An idea without follow-through is just a concept. Executing a bad plan is just a waste of resources.
When some or all partners disagree on something that’s crucial to the business, successful partners have a pre-designated leader with Vito power so they don’t get lost arguing and wasting time and money.
#3. They talk about money – a lot!
Set it and forget it doesn’t work in a partnership when it comes to money. One may expect more shares than the other. Some partners don’t have the stomach for lean times and may find themselves anxious to sell when the company hits a rough patch or two. Then there’s the day to day operations and their costs…
Take a look at the $500-million-dollar hourly car rental service Zipcar that was recently acquired by Avis. The founders, Robin Chase and Antje Danielson are renowned for their constant battles over money and stock options until they both couldn’t take it anymore (read their story). They left the company sometime in 2004 and the CEO that took over ended up rather swiftly turning the service to the half-billion-dollar megalith it is today after their partnership disbanded.
#4. They have skills that complement, rather than mirror each other
There are many instances where two partners with the same background come together to form a perfect partnership, such as that of Brin and Page. That doesn’t mean that two totally introverted programmers are destined for success. Or that two stubborn, narcissistic salesman will have the restraint and flexibility needed to close big deals together in the boardroom.
As mentioned above, most successful partnerships bring together complementary skills that combine to make the perfect package, rather than each partner sharing all the same personality traits and professional skills. Look at the recent partnership between Apple and IBM: the Tech giant and its smaller counterpart came together out of a desire to innovate and dominate the enterprise software vertical. The two partners are about as different as you can get when it comes to how they do business, but their collective knowledge has made them much talked about and successful.
#5. They are the catalyst to each other’s success
Successful partnerships contain two or more parties who’re committed to the success of the business. All involved understand that constantly challenging the status-quo of the business and various industries it services is the only way to get, and stay ahead in the 21st century.
Most, if not all truly successful partnerships have a competitive force coming from all involved, driving innovation in several key areas. When one starts to slack off, the other(s) are always there with the proverbial whip, mushing the other on just like a musher would the slowest member of their dog-sledding team.
#6. They’re in-tune with what’s going on in each other’s heads
Many a failed partnership has resulted from partners who “thought” but really had no clue what the other was thinking regarding the business and partnership. It isn’t necessarily important to know everything that’s going on in your partner’s personal life, but it sure can help too when it comes to knowing about things that can affect their performance such as failing relationships, money problems, drug and alcohol issues, or if they’re planning to give it all up soon to become a penniless nomad!
Mostly, successful business partnerships come down to knowing how comfortable the other is with the level of uncertainty the business currently has hovering around it (and what successful business doesn’t have heaps and gobs of it?) The same goes if a partner is too comfortable when they shouldn’t be. Knowing when to push them and when to pull back a bit is integral to a successful partnership and is great for controlling morale between one another.
What’s your secret to a successful partnership?
There’s no one-size-fits-all blueprint that will ensure success in every business partnership. Share any traits you see missing from the list in the comment section and tell us why they’re so important to you.
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