Surviving Your Business Partnership

Now that you’ve completed the dating dance of creating your business partnership, what is your plan to survive it? Ostensibly in forming the partnership, an operating agreement was created (and signed) describing everyone’s role, rules of engagement, and buy out/dissolution terms. It’s in all partners best interest to have partnership agreements in place, and if you’re remotely questioning whether the one you have is detailed enough, go back and review it now. For everyone’s protection, here’s some guidelines as to what an agreement should entail.

Imagine if your partnership contract was set in stone.

Imagine if your partnership operating agreement was set in stone.

Once you and your partner(s) are set to get down to work on the business, below are some thoughts as to how to keep things running as smooth as possible.

Decide How To Work Together

Everyone has their own way of completing work. Deciding frequency and methods of discussion will eliminate distractions and allow you to focus on your own tasks. Whether its an end of day check-in, weekly round up or 5-minute morning google chat, come to consensus as to what’s going to be most useful for all involved. This especially helps if you’re located in geographically different areas (as in not sharing office space).

Set Goals Based on Skills

There’s much to accomplish and chances are your partnership was based on forming around complementary skills. Review what in each area needs to get accomplished first and who’s best to do it. Not all goals can be accomplished individually, however assigning ownership to foster them through completion gives all partners the opportunity to contribute to the company’s success.

Communicate, Plan to Communicate, Communicate More

If you and your partner(s) were separate meetings describing the company, would your messages sound the same? Communication and over communication is a key between partner(s). Insuring you all agree on the company priorities, discuss strategy or upcoming challenges keeps everyone on the same page while moving the company forward. It’s fine to table issues that may be too large to come to agreement with in one sitting, however make a plan for follow-up on them in the short term.

Create Rules for Financial Decisions

One partner wants to travel to an expensive conference to meet with potential strategic partners, another needs to hire a developer consultant to make additional headway on the product – the company has limited funds to work from. How do you decide? Having a set of operating rules in place that determine revenue vs non (or not immediately) returning revenue streams based on where you are in your product and earning cycle help steer the decision and insure one partner doesn’t appear favored over another.

Be Realistic

We’re all people, and people change as well as their situations. Any outside event could alter a partner’s ability or interest in participating in the company.

Set Evaluation Points

As with monitoring your business health, set aside time to evaluate yourselves as partners. Are all partners still committed to the business and the priorities? Has anyone had a life-changing event that detracts from their business priorities?Are you all satisfied with the direction the business is running? Your partners are your first tier support mechanism for running the company, and if a partner isn’t pulling their weight or wants to step back, having a forum to discuss any issues that could derail the partnership is important to establish.

Partnerships ebb and flow, and regardless of duration, if you create initial guidelines of how to work together it will save much cost and angst at the point it comes to an end. I once watched a partnership dissolve when one partner moved across country from the other without any discussion about it because the partner’s spouse had received a good job offer. The partners were running a retail store.

You tend to hear more about partnerships that end in disaster (like above). Have you seen any strong ones?

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