The common recommendation around partnerships is, “don’t get into partnerships”, “partnerships are hard”, “partnerships are like a bad marriage”…etc., etc. However, these folks that are commonly providing these recommendations are people I would never want to be partners with. The challenge is that it takes hard work and not everyone knows how to work hard. There are people that simply can’t or don’t communicate and if either of those is true then it is doomed for failure.
At Arcane Marketing, we have made the partnership work. We have the tools and resources, the structure, vision, and alignment that seven of us partners along with 30+ employees need to be able to structure and thrive in a multi-partner relationship. This has proven challenging but with the help of an entrepreneurial operating system implemented around the principles shared in Gino Wickman’s book Traction and simply driven and change adaptable partners we are making it not just work but thrive. Here is a list of tips I would recommend when exploring partnership and finding whether it is possibly a fit for you.
First of all, you need to identify whether you actually need a partner. And what is the structure you might allow to facilitate a relationship? It doesn’t always have to be equity in your company but can be a joint venture, an agreement for a percentage or a simple vendor relationship or employment of people/resources. Remember partnership is working within criteria of set expectations with people who can provide complementary value.
Second, find strategies that work for you to help people feel valued, motivated and incented to get the job done whatever their level of engagement. Remember the following are critical:
- Communication, both planned and at random. Have structure and follow it. But when it comes time to give the attention to your partners, make sure they have your undivided attention.
- Identify roles & responsibilities. Disappointment in any relationship often comes from missed expectations but it’s often the case that those expectations were not properly set. Know what you are responsible for and what you can hold others accountable for and you will win.
- Recognize that you will not always get your way. Be humble, and while your driven and hard-working approach will, in the long run, be complimented by your driven and hard-working counterparts. Hold them accountable like mentioned above but be aware that it should be reciprocated.
Third but certainly not least, “I would rather own a small piece of something big, than a big piece of something small.” I could own a number of worthless things but until I leverage the right resources and find complimentary value from strategic partners I will continue to own very little. Partnerships can accelerate your growth but I am not soon to be naive that it always works our perfectly so be aware that there are pitfalls.
So owning a piece of anything, especially in partnership, comes with its responsibilities. Be aware of the following:
- Do your due diligence on the people you are partnering with. Get to know their work ethic, passions, hopes, and dreams. Make sure your visions are aligned and that you are taking each other in the intended direction.
- Be cautious of personal guarantees unless you are willing to bear the debts of your business partners.
- Put approval procedures and policies in place to help protect you from these pitfalls.
- Communication is key! This cannot be expressed enough that you must be on the same page as to where you are in business and why.
Lastly, remember that your decisions inside and outside the business reflect on and impact your business partners. Inside the business could be how customers are treated and whether you deliver the expected product. It could be how collections are done or the sales process promises made or missed. It reflects on you and as an organization. Outside decisions also have an impact because when a big personal financial decision is made by an equity partner, it may reflect in the personal stress had within the organization to make ends meet. This can be positive or can tear down an individual and reduce output. Being friends and providing input on how it might impact you and/or the organization could help you avoid unnecessary stress until the organization can provide adequate resources to commit to big internal or external commitments.
Ultimately, the power of partnerships is the leveraging of resources and providing a greater chance of success due to the use of multiple people and/or organizational resources to create something greater for the end consumer, which ultimately reflects on you who is providing value to the marketplace. Don’t be afraid of partnerships but be aware that it isn’t all rainbows and butterflies but that it takes, grit, hustle, drive and sometimes/many-times a bit of humility to push you through toward the ultimate vision that propels you into your bright future.