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If you own 100% of your company, you’re making a huge mistake. Finding the right partners has allowed me to start and scale multiple companies at once. Without strong partners, I would have one, mediocre company instead of multiple, high-growth companies.
In 2019, Forrester conducted a study on how companies worldwide are using partnerships “to drive competitive advantage.” Results indicated that 77% of companies viewed partnerships as central to their business strategies and initiatives.
We’ve all been burned by bad partners and failed partnerships. Don’t let that deter you from all the benefits that come from great partnerships. Everything good in my life, both professionally and personally, has come in collaboration with partners. I was lucky to start life as a twin, my built-in partner to do everything with. As a result, I’ve spent my life learning to be a good partner and living out the partnership model.
The book Rocket Fuel, by Gino Wickman and Mark C. Winters, teaches the importance of having both a visionary and integrator — two different people — in order to successfully scale companies. “When these two people share their natural talents and innate skill sets, they have the power to reach new heights for virtually any company or organization.”
Finding the right partner
There are some basic things to look for when considering a partnership. Obviously, you want to only partner with someone who is honest, committed and self-aware of their contributions. However, the hard truth is: You won’t know how successful your partnership was until you watch your people create partnerships of their own.
When you become a parent, you make long-term investments without seeing much ROI or proof that it’s working for 20-30 years. It’s only when your children become parents themselves, and you see them parent their own children, that you get an idea of how well you’ve done. Only then can you know if a positive cycle will continue and whether there will be further successful generations that come from you.
Likewise, you may start a lot of businesses, and even find partners to run those businesses for you, but you don’t really know you’ve succeeded at creating a generational enterprise until your people are creating their own businesses. Then, like a grandparent, you can take joy in their success and give them support and advice when they need it (but not too much — more like a wise grandparent who knows when to hold back).
If you can’t know for certain if your partnership will be successful upfront, then what can you be looking for? I’ve noticed that the best partners are those who live to see others succeed. This selflessness in a partner will ultimately show up in the way they treat you.
Author and psychologist Sherrie Campbell wrote, “Successful partnerships are based in service, not selfishness … The collaborative effort comes directly from the efforts of each individual partner contributing to the whole. Being in the mind of service, in the helping of others, keeps the partnership humble.”
Another good thing to keep in mind when seeking a partner is that business partnerships don’t have to be 50/50. In fact, the majority of these equally split partnerships I have observed have failed. Decisions can easily become deadlocked when parties firmly disagree but have equal “voting rights.”
There is no doubt that every partner contributes differently and in varying degrees, even if just slightly. There’s never a perfect split. Additionally, the value a person may bring to the table can change over time. Having frank conversations with partners throughout your partnership, beginning to end, is the only way to mitigate potential feelings of resentment or inequity.
Partnership in action
Another key partner in my life has been my wife, Kim. Although marriage and business partnerships are uniquely different, I have found that many aspects that improve marriages also improve business relationships. In many ways, a business partnership could also be called a business marriage.
Perhaps nobody knows how similar marriage is to a business partnership than those who both partner in life and business. Jordan and Jessa Maddocks became the co-founders of the women’s clothing brand JessaKae in 2016, shortly after they were married. Since starting a business together from their own basement, Jordan and Jessa have learned a thing or two about what a healthy business and marriage partnership take. They agree that communication is key.
According to Jordan, “When something goes wrong, you can usually pinpoint it to a moment where somebody made an assumption, or where communication could have been more clear. So, even if you sometimes feel like you’re beating a dead horse, it is always best to overly communicate. And then listen. After that, be clear about what the overall objectives are.”
Jordan and Jessa have also learned about the power of partnerships from their experience with external partners, such as celebrities and social media influencers. These partnerships have given JessaKae access to plus-size, local and other female communities that the brand has been passionate about impacting.
Partnerships come in all shapes, sizes and forms. Some are large, and some are small. Some are long-term, and some are brief. No matter what, strive to find the partner who allows you to focus on what you do best, and then do the same for them.
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