A business partnership is very much like a marriage. Very few are successful and last while many end in the termination of the relationship. There are, however, techniques and proven methods that you can use to divorce proof your business partnerships.
1. Defining a Vision
Every successful business integrates a vision for their company into their business plan and this should be no different for a partnership. This will ensure that all the partners are headed in the same direction from the word go. While the motives, functions and personal goals of each partner may differ, it is essential that the objectives, methods and vision be the same.
It may take some time to discuss and thrash out differing visions for the company to come to one conclusion. Just like in a marriage, compromise is key and each person’s own motivation and energy can contribute to a great vision. Motivation and energy will need to be turned into definable terms that have a purpose within the overall operation and vision. The vision should be in writing and referred to in all aspects of the running of the business, especially when differences arise.
2. Defining Expectations
Each partner will have unique features that contribute to the partnership in some way – whether for their skills, expertise, capital investment or networking abilities. It is important to define each person’s contribution and how this will relate into their expected function within the operation of the business. Without clearly defined expectations, disagreements can arise as to who contributes what and who is responsible for specific functions.
While it is best to define expectations in the planning phase of the business before anything is put into writing, it also important to make room for adjustments as expectations will need to change to meet the growing needs of the business. Take into consideration personal needs, as well as changes in skills and interests in each individual partner in addressing and re-addressing expectations. Defining expectations should be an ongoing process.
3. Defining Strengths and Weaknesses
Just like in a marriage, each partner will have strengths that compliment or make up for another person’s weaknesses. It is very important to define these strengths early on in the relationship and bring to light any hidden talents or skills that may benefit the joint venture. Recognizing your own and your partner’s strengths can go a long way towards maintaining motivation and commitment which will result in a rewarding business experience.
The best way to go about this is to ask each partner to list their strengths, skills and expertise that they would like to bring to the business. These can then be addressed together to ensure that each person’s strengths add value to their personal needs as well as to the success of the business.
4. Defining a Job Description
Providing each partner with a specific job description relating the specific tasks and functions that they are expected to perform can prevent one partner from taking on all the work which is one of the major causes of a breakdown in a business partnership. Each partner needs to be accountable for fulfilling their own tasks and to one another. Where there are gaps or tasks that cannot be accomplished by any of the partners, employ a specialist or contract the task out. This process is designed to ensure that all functions and tasks within the business are taken care of and to define who is held accountable.
5. Defining Limitations
Each partner may have limitations to what they can contribute to the business – whether this is in the form of time, money or skills. It is important to recognize these limitations and to make provisions to provide additional support. Hire an employee to provide the necessary support and fill in the gaps. You may think that your new venture cannot afford this but it could mean the difference between success and failure of the partnership in the long run.
6. Defining Goals
Without a goal, the business will drift aimlessly. Goals for the business should always be addressed first and then the individual goals for each partner. Individual goals should always contribute to the overall goal for the company. Goals should be realistic and measurable and should be put down in writing as part of the initial business plan. Goals will need to be reviewed, updated and adjusted regularly to ensure continued growth and success.
7. Defining Communication
Face-to-face meetings are critical in ensuring good communication and collaboration. These meetings should be scheduled at least once a month or more often if necessary. Each meeting should have an agenda and minutes should be taken that each partner can refer to at a later date. Each partner should leave every meeting with actionable tasks and functions to accomplish before the next scheduled face-to-face.
It is also important to stay in contact on a daily or weekly basis via telephone, email or other means of correspondence. It is however best to keep all communication in writing so that it can be referred to when needed. Put a communication strategy and plan of action into place.
8. Be Patient
Don’t expect your business relationship to create success overnight. Most ventures take approximately 3 years to reach maturity and start functioning according to the vision of each partner. Take the time to get to know your partner, what they have to offer and let the relationship mature and grow over time.
A successful business is not just about transactions but about creating personal relationships and bonds. A commitment to your partnership and to strengthening these bonds will reflect positively on the entire operation. You and your partner will be rewarded in many ways simply by giving your business relationship the care, respect and attention that it needs.
By Waverly Hanson, author of ‘How to Divorce-Proof Your Marriage’