Here’s what you need for a robust business partnership

Aja Stuart

Business partnerships may as well just be called ‘the other marriage’. You spend ridiculous amounts of time with one other person, shackle your emotional and financial wellbeing to them, and their decisions will have a meteoric impact on your life.

When business partnerships work well, both partners will benefit. When they don’t work, the level of destruction can be complete. If you’re thinking of teaming up with a partner, building a strong relationship is key to your personal and professional success.

Trust is a must

As with a marriage, trust is paramount. Whether you know it or not, you will likely have everything on the line at some point in this venture. So will your partner. You both need to know you’re in safe hands and that your best interests will be taken into consideration. Trust will hold the relationship, and possibly the business, together through those tough moments. Trust can make the risks of business exhilarating rather than terrifying.

You’d think having everything in common would be good basis for a business partnership, but, actually, creating a partnership of unique strengths will do more for you and your business. What value does each person bring to the partnership? A blend of complimentary skill sets will diversify your reach and strengthen your position. This means each partner will benefit from the relationship, which should be why you’re in a partnership to begin with.

Opposites attract but most importantly – they work

Having the added benefit of a second brain for your business can backfire drastically if you don’t communicate well. Open, respectful communication will see your partnership flourish. There will always be differences of opinion. Approached the right way, this could be another strength of the relationship. If you can give each other the benefit of the doubt you will likely get a lot further than if the conversation dissolves into unproductive bickering.

There’s no time for “who’s working harder than who?”

So, who’s working harder? It’s stupidly common for business partnerships to quickly devolve into resentment over the division of labour. “You handle the accounts, I’ll do the marketing” isn’t going prevent this issue from coming up. From the outset each partner needs to be clear about roles and expectations. If one of you is burning the midnight oil every night, while the other is cruising through a work-life balanced nine to five, this should be agreed upon before it starts to happen.

Perhaps most importantly, write it all down. Have a crystal clear agreement in place that covers all the uncomfortable things you probably don’t want to think about. How are you dividing equity? Does that relate to the division of labour? Are you sharing the risk? What happens if one partner gets sick and can’t work for an extended period of time? If you also share a bed at night, what happens if you break up? A good partnership agreement is your rock if things should go wrong, but it’s also a solid grounding to a successful business relationship. Being clear from the start means both partners know where they stand from the outset.

Like any relationship, business partnerships need to be respected and nurtured. If you can do this for your partnership, you will no doubt see the rewards.

Aja Stuart

Aja is Sydney-based writer and serial entrepreneur. She regularly writes about small business, entrepreneurship, and health and wellbeing. Her latest entrepreneurial adventure is!