How to Keep Your Business Partnership From Imploding
Originally published on AllBusiness.com
Running a business on your own, especially if you’re a first-time entrepreneur, can be daunting. There’s so much to do . . . so many mistakes to be made . . .
So it’s understandable that you’d consider having a partner to share the decision-making and the risk.
I felt the same way. After running my content marketing firm on my own for 13 years, I decided to start a second business with a good friend.
Without going into the gnarly details, I’ll just say: it didn’t work out. At all.
If you’re considering taking on a partner, think carefully first: 70% of business partnerships fail. I’m not telling you that to scare you (much), but to open your eyes to the fact that, while it might seem like a good idea right now, you need to reflect on whether you will still feel that way in the future.
In retrospect, I look back and can learn some lessons from my failed attempt at working with a partner. May these lessons help you should you decide to partner with someone to start a business.
1. No amount of foresight helps when emotions are involved
When you care about someone in your personal life, it’s exceedingly difficult to keep emotions out of something you’re so passionate about as a business. Especially if you realize you have different visions for where you want to take the business. Whose vision is more valid? Which direction do you go?
It can be difficult to try to compromise two distinct views without emotions coming into play. Feelings will get hurt. Fair warning.
2. Be aligned—really, really aligned—in your vision
At first, it seemed we were aligned in what we wanted. But then I realized that my partner hadn’t been truly communicating what she wanted for the business . . . or else I steamrolled over what she said and believed we were aligned.
Even if you, like me, are itching to launch your business already, I urge you to take more time than you think you need in the planning phase. Talk, talk, talk about what you want and how you see the business growing. Listen to your partner. Really listen. Because you need to be 100% aligned before you start filing important paperwork and spending money.
3. Don’t let one person have complete control
The thing about business partnerships is that initially there is trust—and there should be. But once things fall apart, that trust is shattered. My partner controlled the web domain, design platform, event page, and money. When things fell apart, I had zero access to everything that I needed to continue the business on my own, so I had to start from scratch.
While you will both have different areas of responsibility in the business, you both need complete access to all accounts and tools. Both partners need administrative access to all platforms. Period.
4. Your friendship will likely suffer
I wish I could give you a happy-ish ending to this tale. But I am no longer friends with this person because our business partnership imploded. It’s sad.
You may have a great friend who you think, wouldn’t it be fun to start a business together? And maybe it would, and maybe it would work out well.
But before you partner, ask yourself how you would feel if your friendship suffered or was obliterated because of this business. Is it worth the risk? You might be better off finding a business partner you’re not personally close to than to risk jeopardizing a friendship you’ve built over the years.
5. Going solo isn’t so bad
I’m not suggesting that every entrepreneur go solo, by any means. I just want to stress that it’s not so terrible. I continued the business on my own, and while, yes, all the work falls to me (so does the profit!), there is freedom in being the only person who weighs in on decisions. I have enough experience running my marketing firm that it’s not completely scary to start this second business on my own.
You shouldn’t be scared, either. Nor do you have to go it alone. Even if you don’t have a business partner, you have a wealth of online resources to answer any question you have about running your business. You can also turn to SCORE and Small Business Development Centersfor free help.
You don’t need to have a business partner to thrive. You just need the confidence to do it on your own, as well as resources to turn to should you need a little nudge in the right direction.