What makes a successful business partnership?


business partnership

I often get asked what the most important qualities of a successful business partnership are. I have put together 3 key elements that you should consider before moving things forward.      


1. Trust 

Trust can be sometimes overlooked in the passion of a new idea. A partner can be charismatic, persuasive, and the hope that they are loyal may be overwhelming, but trust is fundamental! Without it, your business can’t blossom, and investments both financially and emotionally will be tough at best and more likely, outright dangerous. Being honest, is the best way to build a solid foundation of trust. It is no coincidence that many successful partnerships are born of childhood friends, or college associates. By knowing your business partner beforehand, you eliminate most of the trust issues that can arise later. This does not mean that you should rely on trust alone. I would recommend that you sign a partnership document that details the services you are contributing to the partnership, how much of the business you own and how much money you have put in. You never know what the future holds. If you find yourself in a business partnership with someone you don’t trust, you should at the very least have a partnership contract, that clearly communicates what your roles are and what you have contributed. 

2.      Communication 

Clear communication is extremely important in any relationship, and business is no exception. If trust is the foundation of the house, then communication is the cement binding the structure together. Without it, a united company becomes problematic as each partner starts to drift off in their own direction. Reactions can be spending more time doing jobs that they like and avoiding what is necessary to move the company forward. Not periodically reviewing finances, the business plan, and discussing operations. One of the worst side effects of not communicating, can be a lack of where one partner thinks they are doing all the work, and subsequently make less of an effort themselves. This can rapidly turn into a vicious circle bringing the business into decline. All this can potentially be avoided with a simple conversation. Perhaps the circumstances temporarily mean that one partner has less time. School holidays, children’s exam period, or a husband or partner is out of the country for a few weeks. Open honest communication, also facilitates the building of trust.This does not mean that you don’t need to strike a balance. One person may want to always talk it all out, and the other person just wants to move on without going through details. This can make it tough to get through the kinds of conversations you need to have as business partners. If one person presses and the other avoids talking, it’s either going to blow up or cause irritation. And the reality is that while it’s possible (but very difficult) to change communication styles, that process takes a long time under the best of circumstances. Setting some guidelines and delegating problematic areas may be the answer, or maybe you just are not compatible. If that is the case it is probably time to reconsider. You should also consider what your code of conduct will be for dialogue: Is it okay to bring up heavy topics in emails? Is it okay to continue heavy conversations that started in person via email? Is email ever not okay? What if an IM escalates unexpectedly? If a business is in the early stages, where there is more uncertainty, or maybe undergoing a challenging period, we would strongly advise you to over-communicate, to avoid the opposite scenario. The other great side effect of over-communication is the safety mechanism it brings. Even a quick “what do you think of this email” (when it’s going to an important client), acts as a net catching errors and potential oversights 

3.   A Shared Vision 

Ultimately you are in this together with your partner. A shared vision brings you back to why you are pursuing this goal or dream. It motivates you to stand up when times are hard, when resources are scarce and when you are struggling. Nearly all young business, and of course old ones too, struggle from time to time. The world is changing, the costs you face are changing, consumer-appetite and demand is changing. Sharing a vision allows you to navigate these pitfalls. Going back to my house analogy , Trust is the foundation, cement is communication, and bricks are the shared vision that is the essence of the house. The initial vision is what motivated you to start something. We find the hardest challenge is to keep up that momentum in the face of difficulties and time. Like anything, once the honeymoon period is over the real work begins. This is where coming back to your shared vision can help. One of the tools we also like to promote using is a vision board. This helps to create the imagery needed to focus on the end goal. We are all so busy, it is easy to get side-tracked. Having an image, even as a screen-saver or background can help you focus on your goals.