I’ve had a partner in business for the majority of twenty years. In my opinion, one of the single greatest benefits of having a business partner is knowing that I have someone who is not only there in times of success, but also by my side in the trenches when times get tough. That is a feeling that only those who have great partners can relate to. But that only scratches the surface of a successful business marriage.
Just like in personal relationships, careful deliberation is the order of the day. I’ve found that most partnerships are either formed by way of creating a synergy of two existing entities to produce a dynamic outcome, or it comes from a personal standpoint – which is how it happened for me. MJ (my business partner) and I have been partners in a number of different ventures since 1991.
Match Made in Heaven
Our first venture was in college where we built an apparel company that eventually sold merchandise to the best retailers in the country. Our foundation was formed at a very early point in our entrepreneurial careers. We were just two excited guys glad to be doing something new and exciting. Since we didn’t know what to really expect, there wasn’t a lot of pressure initially – just two guys going for it. As the business got more complicated, we gradually understood what each other’s strong points were and divided the responsibilities up accordingly.
Fast forward twenty plus years and our partnership is based on the same things as it was back then – trust, integrity and FUN.
My significant other, and yes, I’m talking about MJ not my wife. Sad isn’t? Or maybe just plain pathetic! But none-the-less true – I talk to him more than my wife and have probably gone out to dinner with him more as well – yikes!
Power Partnerships Defined
So, how do I define a great partnership? Well if this sounds personal… it’s meant to sound that way – here we go:
1) Passion – Inevitably a partnership has to start (and end) with both parties possessing equal passion for the business or idea. I believe passion is a mandatory component to create any successful venture.
2) In It To Win It (All In)– It’s a great feeling to know that your partner is all in and will do whatever it takes to make the business succeed. This often means doing things under pressure situations and under extreme duress. This all in attitude fortifies your posture of being an unbeatable team!
3) Dedication & Commitment To Greatness – We’ve seen how Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak created one of the greatest companies in American history, and that takes both partners pushing each other to be better and innovate at the highest level. It’s not about being good, it’s about being great.
4) Respect And Honesty – This goes without saying but deserves saying again. When honesty is lost, dissension bears its ugly head. A lack of respect causes the partnership to rot from the inside out. Conversely, having mutual respect for one another and being honest creates a path to success and acts as an investment each other’s outcomes. There is nothing I am afraid to tell MJ and the same holds true the other way around.
5) Appreciate The Differences – You will never see everything through the eyes of your partner. As the old saying goes, ‘Focus on what enriches your relationship, not simply what reflects it.’ Appreciate your differences! MJ and I certainly do not agree all the time. Some may feel this is not good. To us, it’s how we grow. Being able to be willing to view a situation from the perspective of your partner will stretch your comfort zone and make you a better company if you have the respect I mentioned above, and you are open and willing to not always be Mr or Mrs. Right.
6) Communication – Just like personal relationships, communication is the foundation of a partnership. At the very least, great communication will improve awareness, reduce tension, and create better decision making. At the very best, it makes the company work like a well-oiled machine.
7) Humor – The final component of a great power partnership is the necessity to have fun. In order for a business to last, the partners must enjoy the process of running a business. Not a day goes by that MJ and I are not cracking each other up over one thing or another. Humor is a necessity. Why? Because life is too short not to have fun.
One quick note on egos… Egos destroy businesses. I personally don’t think MJ and I have egos as we believe there is tremendous strength in humility. We weren’t always like that but I like to think we are now. What I can say, however, is if egos are involved, be sure to leave them before you walk through the door so you can reach your goals without interference and unwarranted roadblocks.
Summing It All Up
As you can see, business relationships mirror personal relationships in several aspects. At the heart of all business relationships, small or big, are human beings. Understanding what makes each other tick is an essential tool in being a successful duo. MJ happens to love working very early in the morning. I, on the other hand love to work late into the night. Because of this, we are open for business from early morning to late at night.
When you start thinking about entering into a partnership, ask yourself, what do I want in a partner? Draw up a profile of your partner, and use it as a reference. Going into a partnership based on feelings and gut can be your undoing and create massive setbacks. Think marriage. As we all know, entering a marriage on a bad foundation is costly – both time and money. Nothing is perfect, but you have to understand what you can live with and what you can’t.
If you’re already in a partnership that has it’s challenges, address it immediately. Let the person(s) know what you expect and open up the conversation. Find out what they expect. Often times your expectations are similar, but have gone off-course for some reason. It’s your job to get understanding, so you can right the ship.
Work Hard, Work Smart & Stay Hungry!