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As an entrepreneur, you take a big risk by starting your own business. The vision, capital, decisions and responsibilities rest on your shoulders. There comes a time when you may consider taking on a partner. Whether it’s early on or after you’re established and ready to take your brand to the next level, making the decision about a partnership is not to be taken lightly. When it comes to choosing a partner, choose wisely.
Marriage, divorce and running a business with someone else have a lot of similarities. In the beginning, things are exciting! You spend all your time together enjoying your similarities and making big plans. As your relationship routine develops, you begin to think and talk alike — even finish each other’s sentences. But when the honeymoon phase is over and challenges begin to surface, some relationships weather the storm, and others sink like the Titanic.
Similar to a messy divorce, you cannot get out of a business partnership without extreme difficulty. It takes a long time to go through all the legal stuff to form the partnership properly, but it can take even longer and be more challenging to separate, so it’s important to be very strategic from the beginning.
Of course, having a good contract in place is an absolute necessity. Even then, you may be facing an uphill battle. If your partner doesn’t agree to dissolve, disapproves of the terms you set or simply wants to make your life hard, they can make everything difficult for you — even if you have a right of first refusal. You may even be required to have your company assessed by an independent party. It’s an energy and time-sucker for sure.
So, before you hop in the proverbial business bed with someone, make sure it’s for the right reasons!
Do you really need a business partner?
Many of you will take on a partner for the wrong reason: fear. You are afraid to stand on your own because then all the decisions start and end with you. There is no one else to blame if you fail, and to many of you, that is the scariest scenario. You may feel more comfortable knowing that the decisions made are not completely on your shoulders and therefore, you don’t have to take full ownership if things go south.
But the truth is: When you have full control of the brand trajectory, you are more likely to succeed. Most of you CAN and SHOULD do it on your own, especially a startup. In the same way that your personal happiness is derived from within, the success of your business is within your power. Stop looking for resolutions from outside sources, and trust that you can find the answers by following your own intuition. You don’t need to know everything; you just need to stop second-guessing yourself and trust your instincts! Remember, you achieved amazing things to get you to where you are now, and you can achieve even more greatness to catapult you forward and accomplish your big goals.
What to consider before committing to a business partnership
Of course, there are many scenarios where a partnership is an ideal situation. It just has to be an option you consider carefully and intentionally. A partner must bring as much to the table as you do. There must be an equal energy output. Just like in any healthy relationship, this energy will ebb and flow. Sometimes you’ll be doing more, and other times, your partner will be doing more. That’s natural. However, one person should not always be carrying the burden. The value you each bring to the business needs to be the same.
It’s important to examine your strengths. If you both bring similar qualities, then you are simply duplicating efforts. Think about how the other person’s qualities complement yours. Make sure they bring strengths and knowledge to the table that you don’t. If your zone of genius lies in being a visionary leader, you need someone to bring your vision to life. Partnering is a wise choice if doing the groundwork isn’t one of your strengths, or if there is so much groundwork to do that it takes you away from accomplishing the visionary work.
When I opened my first business, Mad Men Barbershop, my partner (and then-husband) was the visionary; I was the financier and eventually the integrator. In business, we complemented one another well. Each of us leaned into our natural strengths and unique thought processes to achieve the success we have today. Of course, we’ve had our share of disagreements and adversity. But we knew we needed to overcome the challenges as a united front or risk having everything fall apart.
It will take a unique person to understand your mission and work on the business equally as a team. You need to ensure you are in alignment with this person and that both of you are committed to overcoming the inevitable difficulties that will arise. Weigh the pros and cons, and you may find that you would be better served by hiring the right staff who can help you rocket to the next level, rather than committing half of your company — your dream — to a partner.
Trust yourself to know if it’s time to pivot in your business and take on a partner or have the courage to keep slaying it on your own. It’s an easy decision to make when you’re operating with purpose and intent, rather than self-doubt and fear. You’ve already made the biggest, scariest decision in business — getting started! Keep the momentum going. The right choice lies within you.