"Howdy Partner!"
by Ronald C. Reece, Ph.D.

Have you ever thought about going into business for yourself? If so, you may think it's too much to handle on your own. So, you ask yourself, "What if I took on a partner?"

If you're already in business, the same thoughts may cross your mind as you struggle to handle every aspect of self-employment. Sometimes, even the best employees are not enough, and we find ourselves saying, "If only I had some help. What I really need is another me or a partner."

I once heard a wise man say that it's better to take in laundry than take in a partner. That's not always the case. Business partnerships, like all interpersonal relationships are innately challenging. However, they can be extremely rewarding and profitable - as long as all parties understand what they're getting into.

Many people pay lawyers for pre-nuptial agreements and invest time in pre-marital counseling. Yet, they enter into business relationships with a contractual agreement that has little to do with the partnering relationship and the day-to-day operations of the business. Unfortunately, I usually encounter partners after a conflict has arisen or they are near 'divorce'.

Partnerships can take many forms. However, over the years I have come to recognize two types. I call them Visionary Partners or Parallel Partners. Both types can create successful businesses.

Visionary Partners tend to be driven by emotion and ideas. They come together around a strong passion for work and life. These people derive identity from their work and therefore, they take it very personally. In partnerships, they feed off each other. There is an obvious connection or bond. This can fuel a lot of creativity, but sometimes productivity is bogged down by poorly defined approaches to business decisions, deadlines, etc. These partners need a communication plan that is systematic, conscious and mindful in order to fully manifest their vision.

In contrast, Parallel Partners are more arms length and more pragmatic in style. Each person is necessary to the other in that he or she is necessary to the business, yet they do not interact at the same level as Visionary Partners. Parallels operate under what I call a "functional trust." This relationship allows them to work toward mutual benefit without the bond forged by Visionaries. Parallel partners may have more exact business plans, but their "by the book" culture can limit flexibility, while sacrificing creativity.

I like to take partners through a powerful exercise during which we design a Partnership Code. It centers on a statement of purpose. It defines communication methods and identifies which decisions will be made jointly or separately. Without being too restrictive, an effective code will assign responsibilities and make life easier for partners - as well as their employees, customers, families and friends.

So, before you partner up you may want to give me a call.

© Reece & Associates, P.A.