BUSINESS PARTNERSHIPS: WHY THEY SUCCEED AND LAST

Do you know Keith Richards and Mick Jagger? What about Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer? What about Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger? … Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard? If you don’t know them, they represent
some of the famous business partnerships I know. But what do these famous partnerships have in common? They lasted a long time, some are still going strong.

In 2010, I went into three business partnerships with two friends and a business partner. One of them crashed after seven months, the other crashed in 2011 while the third is still working, though with some persisting challenges hence, the business struggling to hit double digit profit.

Having said all that, the big question is: why is it that some partnerships succeed while others crash and burn?

To find an answer, here are a few reasons I put together from a short research I made late last year when I was invited for a partnership. I asked a mentor and a few experts to give me an insight to what has made famous partnerships thrive. So, I identified four key elements that define lasting business partnerships.

Trust
Trust is the foundation for any successful partnership. Trust implies that both parties participate in the relationship with both ‘gives' and ‘gets. The attitude of giving a full commitment to the partnership will usually result in getting the same commitment in return.

It's that very commitment that has kept Warren Buffett and his vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, Charlie Munger, working together for more than 30 years. Indeed, while they are known to be exact opposites in terms of personality, their deep trust in one another has allowed their partnership to be mutually beneficial despite their differences.

Shared vision and values
Also, it's important that partners aren't too different when it comes to goals. Hewlett and Packard, both Stanford University electrical engineering graduates, worked together on a fellowship. When they launched their business in Packard's garage near Palo Alto, California, in 1939, they shared the same mission and objective: to build an electronics company.

What cripples famous partnerships to a point of failure is when, after achieving success, the partners have the interest and opportunity to take on new projects. New projects can require new missions and objectives that take the partners in different directions, and so the elements of the relationship that made them successful end up frittering away.

Mutual respect
From the famous examples I mentioned earlier, each pair has complementary skill sets that allow the partners to respect each other's unique strengths. Each partner needs to "acknowledge that no matter who did what or how much, nothing could have been accomplished without the work and contribution of the other," says my mentor. Keith Richards, for example, an expert musician, relies on Jagger's skills as a vocalist, lyricist and businessman.

Similarly, though Bill Gates is no longer at Microsoft, his genius at software development, combined with Steve Ballmer's ability to drive ideas from inception to implementation, made them a successful pair.

Honest and open communication
It is also important to note that communicating with a partner can be liken to communicating with a spouse. Meaning: you need to have honest and open communication always, no matter how difficult the topic. This includes talking about money, mistakes, different management styles, instincts and more.

It's extremely important that your partner know where you stand; what motivates you, how you operate, what your expectations are, e.t.c. “Make it a practice to meet with everyone on your team very early on and tell them everything they need to know about you and also encourage them to tell you what you need to know about them at the end of the meeting: It makes for a more productive partnership" an expert I consulted told me.

Finally, partnerships fail when a partner does a little deal on the side or wants to break away and the second party finds out about it hence; declaring yourself is important.  As you work to make your partnership thrive, find a win-win solution that is fair to both of you, and establish clear metrics for success.  Anyone who's been in a partnership can tell you that they are not easy, far from a stroll in the park but, they can be extremely rewarding, and perhaps even essential to the success of your business or venture.



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