Building a strong business requires a multi-faceted approach and the ability to juggle conflicting priorities. As with most things in life, balance is the key. That concept is even more important for businesses built around a partnership or several partnerships, which add extra complications to an already difficult task. Through those collaborative relationships, however, business owners can often discover an even greater potential for success.
Business partnerships are a little like a marriage in some ways. First, you need a “getting to know each other” stage. It’s important to take a little time to get to know one another, test boundaries, and develop ideas together before taking the plunge of starting a business. While occasionally two or three people meet and spontaneously generate ideas that end in real success, that sort of thing isn’t common. Actually, that more accurately describes the dream of a partnership than the reality.
In reality, a successful and valuable business partnership typically grows out of a long-term business relationship, where both parties are familiar with the style, expectations, and modus operandi of the other. Business partnerships require constant communication, self-examination, and regular assessment of commitments and professional goals for each partner. The relationship is essentially a melding of two or more peoples’ business lives.
And like marriages, business partnerships have the most amazing potential: they can go amazingly, spectacularly wrong—or they can be gloriously right. To achieve the latter, you need to be honest with yourself from the start, and make sure both parties have certain qualities and expectations in common.
Below are five major aspects of good business partnerships, many of which can and should be applied in other ways across your business.
Share a vision
When embarking on a business venture with a partner, you obviously need to agreed on the nature of the venture and the general shape of the undertaking, but building a successful business partnership is about so much more. A shared understanding of the desired evolution for the business and for the partnership is necessary to get the most out of a collaborative venture, according to the Bridge Strategy Group. Without this vision in common, the partners may find themselves at cross-purposes, enacting decisions and investments that counteract one another.
Discuss the hard stuff
Don’t be afraid to talk about the difficult aspects of the business—and to fight it out a little, if needed. To be successful, you can’t shy away from discussing money, assets, fears, and concerns. These topics are essential, both for personal ventures and professional ones. Especially in the case of business partnerships, you need to be on the same page as one another in order to work through difficulties and plan effectively.
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Build a partnership based on history and trust
Jumping into a business venture with a virtual stranger is obviously a bad idea. Similarly, trying to start a business with someone who you’ve only known as a friend, not in a business sense, could also be a mistake. Before launching into a full business undertaking, make sure that you’ve worked with your potential partner on smaller business deals and undertakings prior to a larger one. There are aspects of your partner’s style and attitude that you won’t see until you’ve interacted with them on a professional level. Take the time to feel that out and develop a sense of trust with one another before sinking money and time into a bigger project.
Be authentic and thought-provoking, but be willing to compromise
As any successful entrepreneur will tell you, good business is about playing to your strengths and knowing yourself well enough to understand when to stand your ground and when to walk away. The same applies with a good business partnership. You have to pick your battles and be yourself, but also understand that you are working in cooperation with another. You chose to operate with a partner for any number of reasons, but once it’s done, the only way for that partnership to operate successfully is for both parties to be respectful of the other’s ability to contribute to the partnership and bring something valuable to the table. Don’t be afraid to stand your ground, but also pay attention to the topic. Is it really all that important to you? Speak your mind, but be prepared to bend more often than not.
Finally, the most important quality that both sides of an effective business partnership must embrace is listening to one another. This may be seem like common sense, but consider the business owners and entrepreneurs you know. They’re outspoken individuals, leaders in their respective circles and fields. They are full of ideas and thoughts—and usually, they like to talk. Most of them won’t realize that they’re not listening when they’re passionate about their topic. In the end, however, the most successful master the skill, and the best business partnerships are based around good listening skills and mutual respect.
Whether you’re considering a small business venture with a single partner or you’re developing a larger web that combines several different entities working together, business partnerships in all spheres operate on the same basic principles listed above.
As with any business decision, think carefully about the outcomes you expect from a business partnership and work hard to communicate those desires prior to getting started. Most importantly, get everything in writing – this practice keeps all parties accountable for deals made and helps avoid potential conflicts and misunderstandings.Once you’ve found the working relationship your feel confidence in, stay focused on communication, a common vision, and creating an environment of mutual respect. The results could be well worth the time and effort.