Small Business Engagement Officer, QuickBooks
February 18, 2015
I co-founded my business with an amazing business-partner-in-crime. We have complementary skills, a shared vision and enjoy spending time together. She made starting our business more meaningful, more successful and infinitely more fun.
It wasn’t a huge surprise to me when I learned that the Partnership Dissolution Agreement is one of the most popular forms downloaded on LegalZoom. But it doesn’t have to be your fate. Whether you have a business partner now, or plan to onboard one in the future, it’s important to treat them like a spouse to ensure a long, successful relationship.
I often joked that my business partner was my first “husband.” In fact, when I met my real husband, I remember introducing him to my co-founder and thought “She better like him or this is going to be trouble!” In order to build a strong and successful partnership, it’s important to implement a few strategies right off the bat:
1. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Just like marriages, partnerships can fail. A lot. And just like marriages, it often comes down to one thing: communication. I credit my 10-year business partnership with our early commitment to communicate, sometimes even to excess.
Small businesses are like a family. Everyone knows everything about everyone. Just like a marriage, sometimes it felt easier to just sprint out the door. I never did, and neither did she. We talked, cried, fought and laughed, but through it all, we communicated openly and honestly. Looking back, it’s what kept us together through all of the ups and downs of running the business. It is one of the reasons we are still close.
Related: Avoid These 7 Partnership Killers
2. Create a business “pre-nup.”
Pre-nups are standard for many marriages these days. Well, launching a business isn’t much different from launching a marriage. You are just about as financially tied in either situation.
In the business pre-nup, lay it all out there on the table. Define your roles. Discuss everything from whether it’s acceptable to have another job to how much vacation time you will take. Talk about what happens if one of you wants to leave the business or worst case, dies. Discuss it when the emotion is absent. This will make the communication piece much easier when things do come up. Things always do.
3. Have a date night.
Just like any good marriage, enjoy a night out! You are choosing your partner for many reasons, I really hope one of which is that you enjoy spending a lot of time with that person, because you will be spending a lot of time with them. So, get out and have fun together.
My business partner and I both love going to spas, so we started to do that regularly together (when we could afford to, of course). Often, that’s where we would have our most strategic or creative discussions. It was a nice way to chill out and let the guards down.
Just like a marriage, sometimes the most difficult conversations are best done outside the office. I always liked going on a walk. That way you are walking in the same direction instead of staring each other down. It made the conversation a bit easier.
Partnerships can be hugely successful, even for small businesses. With partners, sometimes one plus one equals three! The key is to communicate with honesty and transparency. Remember that, just like a marriage, partnerships need to be nourished and cared for to succeed. As Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.” I’m cheering for you!
Related: How to Divorce-Proof Your Company