I was a textbook “jack of all trades.” A marketing executive with a graphic design background, website coding knowledge and experience in writing (mostly text messages… that counts right?). For a marketing department, all of those skills can come in handy. So when I ventured out on my own I was doing all of those services myself. The problem was, I was ‘aight’ in all of them, and that wasn’t good enough.
After a year of being on my own, my business partner Katie decided to quit her job and be a part owner of Hanabee Creative. With her focus on design (exponentially better than mine), I’ve been able to hone my marketing strategy and writing skills. But sometimes skillset compatibility isn’t enough. Here are a few other things you should look for in a business partner:
1. Company Goals
Sharing the same company goals is important. Are you hoping to sell the company someday? Are you looking to build a big team? Are you hoping to stay small? Not seeing eye-to-eye on these types of matters can end the relationship before it even begins.
- Do you both agree on the vision of the company?
- Do you both agree on long term company goals?
2. Personality Balance
Katie and I are vastly different. She’s visually creative, quiet and super focused on one item at a time. On the flip side, I have big picture ideas, talk a lot and my focus is productively chaotic (for the most part). If I had a dollar for every time Katie said “Whoa! Slow down!” I’d be sittin’ pretty. Despite having to reign in the crazy, our differences have strengthened us as a team.
- Do you have personalities that compliment each other?
- Are you too much of the same person?
- Are you able to overlook some of the annoying idiosyncrasies of your partner?
3. Mutual Respect
Sure your skillsets compliment each other, but it’s important to respect and trust the opinion of your partner. With that being said, there are some aspects of the business Katie could care less about and visa versa. We’ve learned to step up to the plate when our individual skills are required. Also, don’t underestimate the value of knowing each other’s love language, it really helps show your appreciation.
- Do you respect each other’s work, work ethic and integrity?
- Do you trust the decisions your partner will make on behalf of the company?
- Do you respect each other’s opinion?
- Do you trust each other’s accountability?
4. Passion and Commitment
This is a little bit of a no brainer, but resentment can really build if one’s commitment is stronger than the others. This is where expectations come into play. Set these at the beginning of the relationship and put these in the contract. Remember not all partnerships need to be 50/50. If that’s the case, define it up front.
- Is there a primary business owner?
- What are your expectations of each other?
- Do you respect each other’s opinion?
5. Honesty and Confrontation
Piggybacking on mutual respect, there needs to be a safe place where partners can address relationship concerns. Avoiding conflict and keeping the status quo can brew strong resentment. This is poisonous and can slowly start changing the dynamic of your business. Results can be fatal.
- Are you both able to genuinely listen and empathize with the other’s concern?
- Are you able to voice concerns to one another without being offensive?
- Are you able to take criticism without becoming defensive?
- Are you both able to see and respect the other person’s perspective, even if you disagree?
6. Devil’s Advocate
In the quest to always be better, a partner should be a great devil’s advocate. At one of my favorite Ted Talks, Margaret Heffernan explained that disagreeing with one another is central to progress. It makes you a better person, worker and company. View the inspiring talk here.
- Do you challenge each other in your ideas?
- Are you acting as each other’s echo chambers and always agreeing with each other?
7. Legal Contracts
Can you say “AWK- WAARD!” Yes.. talking numbers, expectations and signing a contract can make us a little squirmy, but it’s very necessary. Getting caught up in the initial excitement of the partnership can make it easy for legal contracts to be pushed to the wayside. Plus, it’s such a buzzkill.
Regardless of discomfort, you need to have the tough talk and speak up about what needs to go in the contract. Be fair, realistic and listen to all points. It’s a great way to set the working dynamic.
Contract bullet points should include (but should not be limited to):
- Contract length
- Ownership definitions
- Payment terms
- Responsibility of each
- Capital contributions
- Termination policy
Take extra care when you go into business with a close friend, family member or significant other. While this can be a wonderful partnership, it can be hard to be honest when a relationship is on the line.
With all of this said, you don’t HAVE to have a business partner, but sometimes it’s great to have someone to share the journey with. Personally, I wouldn’t be where I am without Katie, my partner in crime. And I tell her that every other day.