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Less than a year after establishing my marketing consulting firm, I invited two friends to join me as partners. Normally, that would be the beginning of the end, but seven years in, I have no regrets. Sure, lots of people raised their eyebrows when I mentioned partnering with good friends, but the truth is, our friendship has made for a strong leadership dynamic. We’ve been successful because we’ve honored our friendships over money, adhering to this overarching idea by taking a few key lessons to heart:
1. Don’t make money the only goal: When the objective is solely about money, people get greedy. Even a friend can change into someone you don’t recognize. Don’t get me wrong; building a profitable business is still paramount, but the motivation to pull it off has to go beyond money. For instance, my two partners and I built our business around the goal of creating opportunities for people, including us, to grow their careers and skills. Seeing it come to fruition is rewarding, motivating us to mentor and manage employees in ways that help them be productive and effective.
2. Address issues early on: People might avoid this step because it requires having tough conversations — but these conversations are worth it. Getting things out in the open helps release any lurking tension and allows you and your business partners to navigate the ups and downs more easily. First off, create a safe place where issues can be addressed and defined. Issues between partners can be taken very personally, so address them with empathy and understanding. Take your time to determine what you want to discuss, figure out what matters most to you, and be willing to compromise. We leverage a coach to help us address some sticky issues. We also plan short trips out of town to help us unlock ourselves from the day-to-day operations. The perspective works wonders.
3. Assume nothing: Assuming that your business partner is doing well, having fun, being challenged or all of the above is a mistake. Find ways to constantly check the pulse of your partners on the things that matter to them: Are they excited about their role in the company? Are they growing? Do they get excited about the direction of the business? Do they feel valued or heard? Define a cadence of meetings to check in and communicate, but avoid using this time to solve business problems. It’s your chance to focus on the individual. Aligning your business with the interests of each partner can help bring higher returns for your company.
Building a business is not an easy task, but it helps if you partner with the right people and strike the right dynamic. Partnering with friends could be the answer, as long as your motivation is more than just money, you have tough conversations when you need to and you avoid making assumptions about how your partners are doing. At my company, we’re very lucky to have achieved that balance, but it requires a great deal of intention and the willingness to adapt.
June 6, 2019 at 07:34AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs