Through my five businesses that I have owned over the years I have always arrived at the position that I want to have a partner(s) in the business to really make it successful. I am sure that I could have had successful businesses without having partners but I don’t think my overall experience or life balance would have been as meaningful with each one. I don’t find this dissimilar to my decision 32 years ago to marry the woman of my dreams – it has made my life, raising a family and having balance so much more rewarding than going it alone! Partnerships take time and effort but the ultimate rewards go beyond the direct relationship.
Business is Really Just 3 Things
In business I have always seen just three main areas of responsibility that a business needs to be successful – everything else is a sub-category of these:
- The product or service the business is all about;
- Selling and marketing that product or service;
- Managing the operations and cash that deliver the product or service.
I know that my skill set and aptitude is really excellent in overseeing the operations and cash management that a business needs to thrive – and that I can perform adequately in the other two areas for a certain time period but would prefer to have a partner that is excellent at one of them, or two partners with each excelling in one of the other areas.
Yin and Yang of Partnership
This past summer I was honored to see my oldest son married on Cox Beach in Tofino, BC. It was a great barefoot wedding in Canada’s surf mecca between two great partners. In preparation for the wedding I knew I was going to be called upon to say a few words of wisdom for this momentous event and happy couple. Not being known for wisdom in general – I had to dig deep into my 32 years of marriage and distill down a myriad of experiences into a few key points that a joyous celebration such as this could find meaningful. As I reflected back I could see how my wife and I really compliment each other, a Yin and Yang relationship. So I boiled it all down to my Top 3 Lessons I have found in my marriage with my lovely and dear wife, Joan. So in reverse order:
Top 3 Lessons
#3 – Healthy Life = Long Life
#2 – Happy Wife = Happy Life
#1 – Independent Dependence
Amazing how a whole speech at a wedding about how to create a successful lifelong partnership can be boiled down to 10 key words! I believe these same 10 key words are the basis for successful entrepreneurial business partnerships as well – with the only caveat that it won’t necessarily be for a lifetime as I have typically sold my businesses or exited partnerships in a 2 – 8 year time span; but these 3 key lessons have allowed my business partnerships to flourish while they existed!
Healthy Life = Long Life
As in marriage the healthier one is, the more energy and vitality one has to put into the relationship. In business this means recognizing the importance of each partner in the business and respecting the other partners need for balance in their life. I find it is those breaks away from the grind of the office that often allow my sub-conscious mind to arrive at solutions not contemplated in the stress of the office – not to mention feeling revitalized from the break. That in conjunction with making time for regular exercise, eating right and getting the proper amount of sleep (including 30 minute naps each day when available) makes me a strong and viable partner focused on the mutual goals of the business I am in partnership on. So in a business relationship it is important to understand the things that are important for your business partner to live a healthy life and afford them the ability to do so.
Happy Wife = Happy Life
Not that a business partner is a wife, but have you ever had a business partner who is unhappy? It sucks!!! Whether that is a result of a personal issue(s) outside of the office, an internal personal issue or an issue(s) from within the business itself – until that issue(s) is resolved it is impossible to have a happy business life. In a marriage an issue can brew and fester for long periods of time before being addressed – or resulting in the break-up of the marriage. In a business, where often other shareholders and employees are involved, the issue can’t be allowed to fester as it will ultimately bankrupt the business and negatively affect not only yourself and your partner but your other shareholders, employees and customers. A business that is not growing is dying. An entrepreneurial business can’t be successful if one partner is not happy, so either the issue has to be resolved or one of the partners, preferably the one with the issue if the business is to succeed long-term, must leave the business relationship. It is therefore paramount that business partnerships take time on a regular basis to meet outside of the office and talk about any issues with the resolve to support each other to figure out the solution and ultimately grow the business. Keeping your business partner happy is as strong an off-balance sheet item there can be.
The number one reason for any relationship to be successful long term are the benefits derived from each partner being independent from each other in their skill set, responsibilities, strengths and weaknesses. Essentially the Yin and Yang complimenting each other – seeing each other’s blind spots and being confident in their own identity. Then layered onto that independence is the dependence and trust that each partner must have in the other, that no matter what, that they are working together towards a common vision and goals without having to worry about what each other is doing each day to move forward their own areas of responsibility. That’s when one partner who is working on creating success in the sales and marketing of the business has total confidence that the other partner is equally committed to creating success in the financial and operational side of the business – each partner complimenting the other’s blind spots and weaknesses. There is nothing better as an entrepreneur than to be able to take that 2 or 3 week vacation and have total confidence that the business will continue to grow while you are away and you can enjoy the moment in your vacation – independent dependence!
When all three of these are brought together business partnerships excel in creating superior growth and value for all stakeholders – not unlike the bliss and euphoria felt when each partner in a marriage is totally engaged in whom they are and what they bring to the marriage and feeling totally confident that their partner is equally self-aware and engaged.