Over the past few weeks I’ve had a number of conversations where business partnerships have come up.
Partnerships are the lifeblood of our industry. It’s challenging to get anything done without having a partner whether it’s a strategic partner or a co-founder or co-creator.
I like partnerships – the sense of ‘we’re in this together’ and ‘we’ll do what it takes to make our venture a success.’ I’ve also been on the other side where partnerships become a Rubik’s cube of human emotion fraught with power struggles, a sense of betrayal and a bad ending.
An ideal partnership will have clear-set boundaries. In our business we often come together for a creative project because someone has written a great script and you want to be part of that success. Sometimes we just don’t have the time to get to know the person before we sign the marriage certificate.
Whether your partnership is a shot-gun wedding or a childhood friendship turned entrepreneurial, here are some ideas for making the partnership successful.
Plan for the end
This may sound a little ominous but life does happen. People get sick, change priorities or just want to get out of the daily grind of running a business. It’s crucial you set out how the exit process will happen in a fair and equitable way before you get mired in the excitement and find yourself in a business you hadn’t quite bargained for. Consider the exit strategy if either party leaves. Do this at the beginning with lawyers so you aren’t faced with massive lawyer bills when someone wants to leave.
The vision thing
Each partner has to buy into the long- and short-term goals of the company. Partners certainly derail companies by going in an opposite direction. A clearly stated vision can always be pointed to in times of disagreement to unite partners and bring them back to the objective. If that partner still wants to chase a different dream, it may mean exiting the company for the good of all.
Hammer out the details
At the start of any new venture, there’s a great deal of excitement and a flurry of activity to get the business off the ground. Carve out time to do job descriptions with clear expectations for each partner. What are they in charge of and what will they be held accountable for? How much time per week will each of you put into the business? How much holiday does everyone get? What happens when one partner works more than the other? How does compensation work?
So much of partnership success is aligned to a strong marriage. You’re combining your resources of time, energy and effort with another person, just like in a marriage. All of the ingredients – trust, honesty, commitment and a good sense of humour – are crucial to the success of your venture. When things get rocky (and they will!) you can at least draw on that reserve to smooth out the rough spots.