by Jackson Lord

As in any business, it’s critical for the partners to define the Vision and Mission of the venture as the very first step. If all brains aren’t going in the same direction in the same way, problems are bound to arise. The motives for each partner can be different. The overall objectives and methods, however, need to be the same.

Take time to discuss your company’s Vision and Mission with your partners. Look for what energizes and motivates each of you about your business. Give it a purpose and define what the ideal business will look like. Put the joint Vision and Mission in writing and use it as the reference for everything else you do.

Business partnerships take on a variety of forms. They may be a long term formal legal commitment or a simple short term venture to test a market concept. The same principles apply in all cases.

Business partnerships are a little bit like marriages. A lot of them don’t work out and some end badly! Give your small business partnership the best chance for success by following these tips.

Whether it was:

1) Co-authoring a book or article

2) Joint customer training/consulting while having my own consulting business

3) Collaborating on large , multi-year project in the corporate world .

So, what makes for an effective partnerships???

You’ve got to start by first being an outstanding partner:

1. Always show mutual respect and demonstrate that each other’s time is valuable:

This includes small actions like, responding to emails quickly, being on-time to appointments, calling ahead if you’re going to be late, and of course, delivering on your promises.

This seems very obvious professional courtesy, but I’ve experienced colleagues who demonstrate “rock star” behavior in a partnership.

2. Understand your business partner’s strength and weaknesses – if possible, divide up the work to align with your partner’s strengths.

If that’s not possible, then be understanding of the weaknesses and provide support where possible.

3. Know the time constraints and other time pressures on your partner’s time – divide up the work accordingly.

Oftentimes on a particular project, the time commitment is not going to be 50-50 .

As long as that is understood upfront, a strong partnership relationship can still be possible. For the next project, the tide may be reversed and you will need your partner to align with your time pressures. Partner by example.

4. Clearly communicate the project commitments and deliverables that you are responsible to complete.

I strongly suggest writing them down the expectations to ensure no mis-understanding, even on small projects. An email may be sufficient.

The written word has a way of forcing clarity on the joint understanding.

5. Constantly communicate, both formally and informally, on the progress of the deliverables.

Be direct and timely, as surprises breeds distrust in a partnership.

Constant communication also allows for mid course corrections. As an outstanding partner, be willing to pitch in to get the job done if your partner is running behind, without feeling resentful for having to pick up the slack.

6. Be fully transparent on any potential conflicts of interest.

Assets that are created together, such as articles, books, trainings, or presentation, both will share in the intellectual assets rights .

If you are going to reuse assets in another way- make sure this is agreed upon by your partner beforehand.

Here I also recommend the agreement be documented to ensure no mis-understandings later. Again, a simple email may be enough for simple projects.

7. Be supportive:

During the project and after the project is complete, show your partner they are valued, trusted and the working experience was rewarding.

8. Get the money expectations “right”.

if your joint project has a financial component, either with shared costs or shared revenues, have a written contract, that clearly spell out the financial components, even for small projects.

It’s important for your partner to feel the cost or pay distribution is equitable. Nothing spoils a partnership faster than one of the partners feeling they have been “taken” by the other.

9. Share in the Recognition.

This applies to both public or private recognition, but especially for public recognition of a joint project.

Always recognize your partner’s contribution and don’t seek more recognition for yourself than others .

While I strongly believe that modeling the partnership relationship you want, will in turn, be replicated, there will be times when this will not occur.

It only takes one toxic person to destroy the partnership with behavior that is manipulative and untrustworthy.

In those cases, finish the project as quickly as possible. Learn how to catch these behaviors earlier, and move on.

Great partnerships are not only necessary in business, but extremely satisfying and rewarding. It’s worth the effort.

10. Don’t Forget the Importance of Integrity

Integrity to be the “most important” quality in a business partner who is an equal within your company. Being honest partners requires honest, clear communication. Accountability added to honesty is integrity.

While starting and running your business, both you and your partners are bound to make a few mistakes. Partner must be accountable for their actions without blaming employees, or outside influences. Without integrity, you risk triangulating other members of your team, creating disharmony and eventual fissures.

Just as you would test potential partners for reliability, consider doing a few small projects with your prospect first to get a sense of their integrity. Do they own up to errors and communicate honestly, or do they fall into a pattern of blame? Find this out early, as a business partner who lacks integrity could wreak havoc for your business down the road.

What I’ve learned is that great partnering leads to more great partnering opportunities down the road, even after we’ve both moved to other jobs or companies. Conversely, once you’ve have a bad partnering experience, it becomes extremely difficult to give that partnership another try.

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