Know yourself…and know your business partner

11/05/2016
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Choose your business partners and closest associates wisely. Failure to do so can hurt in more ways than one. Reading the biographies of notable individuals you encounter stories of serendipitous professional relationships and successful partnerships. You read far less about the many failed joint ventures, of which there are many. History is written by the winners.

People can write with happy hindsight about how partnerships came to be ‘naturally’, but in reality it is a decision that requires much consideration. It’s not simply a case of separating the sheep from the goats or the winners from the losers; it’s about creating a partnership with a fellow winner who you can work effectively with.

A common word of warning is not to pick your ‘twin’, but looking for your polar opposite is not guaranteed road to success either. In fact, similarities are important. Whilst different skills can be complementary and two people from very different professional backgrounds can complement each other practically, anyone you are tying yourself to this closely needs to be on the same page.

When you’re pitching a sale you tell yourself that people buy the person before they buy the idea, so why should finding a business partner be any different? There are plenty of stories warning against going into business with friends or family, as your personal connection may cloud your judgement as to their ability or suitability. However, the situation can happen in reverse.

It is of little use allying yourself with an individual who has the perfect skill set and commercial experience for your project when you simply cannot stand that individual. Personal differences may not be apparent if you’ve only met one another in work scenarios when you’re both ‘in character’. To be business partners means working closely to such an extent that your real selves will become apparent and it is vital to get to know one another properly before making any decision.

You also need to be on the same page financially. If you see this potential partnership as part of the expansion of your successful, growing business, it would be dangerous to enter into a partnership with someone who sees this collaboration as an effort to try and save their struggling enterprise. Again, you aren’t necessarily looking for an exact twin, but the very word partner implies a sense of parity.

Obviously trust is important between the pair of you but, if you attach the same critical importance to ethics that I do, then you both need to be on the same page with regards to operating with honesty and integrity in a wider sense. If you’ve spent significant time and effort developing a positive reputation, allying yourself to someone with a less ethical outlook can undermine all your hard work and can take your business in directions you are distinctly unhappy about.

If you are seeking to create and nurture a business for the long term whereas your partner is looking to get rich quick and get out, you are clearly not on the same page. To recognise when you are, consider the fact that the individual you are considering may well be called upon to represent you. If you are confident that, if called to a meeting in your stead, they will not only make the correct decisions, ask the right questions and achieve the right results but will do so in a manner that you are comfortable with in terms of honesty, integrity and trustworthiness, then you may be sharing that page. You’re not looking for your twin, who appears like you, you’re looking for someone you trust to act as you.

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