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The secrets to success of a business partnership

A good business partnership is like a good marriage. You meet the right person, work well together and combine talents to create something wonderful. In a Valentine-frosted feature, Emma Jones offers the secrets to a successful business partnership.

A perfect match

Many businesses thrive on account of being run by a partnership. There are a few important things to look out for when identifying your perfect match:

Complementary skills

If your talent is being the front face of the company and you relish going out to meet clients and do deals, find a partner who prefers the nuts and bolts of operations and  who will make sure the business runs smoothly whilst you’re on the road. Having different yet complementary skills helps define the role you and your partner will play.

One note of caution … if you’re business is already established and you’re approached by a fellow business owner who wants to partner, bear in mind that by virtue of being a business owner means you like being in control. Be sure you feel comfortable with having two people who like being in control, in control! What often works well is a business owner finding a partner who is an adviser or a former business owner as they put your interests first and no longer have anything to prove in their own business.

Shared vision

You may be different in nature and talents, but where you do need to be as one is in the vision for the business. Have a shared vision for what you would like to achieve, the way in which you’ll go about it and, how you would ideally like to exit the business (sale/succession/buy-out etc)


This is a critical one. It takes a while to establish (and partnerships are not something to be rushed in to .. again .. just like marriages!) but it’s so important to have trust in the person with whom you are partnering. This is why we see so many family teams (husbands/wives or brothers/sisters) coming together; they trust each other implicitly. Try to find that in your own match.

The relationship grows

To allow the partnership to flourish, there are three points to bear in mind:

  • Have clear roles – decide who is doing what in a way that makes the most of your particular skills
  • Work in separate space – we often hear from husbands and wives who run one business but work from separate spaces in the home. In my first business my partner and I worked from separate offices, in separate homes!
  • Communicate often – you may have your own role to play, and work in separate space, but be sure to talk .. and keep on talking. Tools such as Basecamp [www.basecamphq.com], Google Docs [www.docs.google.com] and Huddle [www.huddle.net] have made project management and communication so much more effective.

Plan for break-up

It may be that your business partnership lasts a lifetime or it may be it lasts until you sell or receive investment. Either way, draw up an agreement at the very beginning of the partnership that sets out what happens in the event of break-up; it’s like a pre-nup for business.

A successful business partnership will bring you happiness and financial reward. It’s someone with whom you share the business highs .. and the occasional days when things don’t go according to plan. It can be one of the most important relationships you’ll have. Find that person with care and treat them well.

Happy Business Valentines Day!

Emma Jones is Founder of Enterprise Nation the home business website and author of ‘Spare Room Start Up – how to start a business from home’ Her next book ‘Working 5 to 9 – how to start a business in your spare time’ will be published in May 2010.

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