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The Partner Predicament: Deciding What’s Best for your Business

by Guest Contributor on April 7, 2011

partnership agreement
Starting your own business is an enormous undertaking, and one of the most critical, strategic decisions you will make is whether to take a partner.

Horror stories abound about the partner from hell and about partnerships gone wrong, so it is important to make the right choice – one that can have a profoundly beneficial impact on your business.

Statistically speaking, businesses started by partners do better than businesses started by individuals, but that doesn’t mean your situation warrants or will be benefitted by a partnership.

Sometimes going it alone is the right course of action.

There are many benefits to running your business solo. It certainly is simpler. As president and CEO, you have the authority to make crucial decisions and shape the future of your company without having to reach agreement with others.

Of course, this can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on whether you work better as a consensus builder or as a maverick. As a sole proprietor you can brainstorm with employees and advisers, but ultimately company decisions and responsibilities are up to you.

Second, without a partner, you own everything. You won’t have to share the wealth, rewards or achievements. You get complete control and recognition.

Another thing to consider is that by going it alone, you won’t have any messy emotional ties, conflicts or issues (personal or professional) to resolve with a partner.

If you have the resources, the experience and the courage, you should seriously consider going it alone.

On the other hand, there are many benefits to forming a partnership, including sharing the financial burden, the responsibilities and work load; benefitting from your partner’s experience, skill set and network; and added capital contributions.

A partner can also provide valuable psychological, motivational and emotional support when times get tough.

You can help each other out and work together to reach a shared goal.

Like a Marriage, But with a Bottom Line

The qualities of a good marriage are quite similar to those in a good, productive business partnership. Like a marriage, a good partnership requires:

  • A shared vision and goal
  • Hard work (from both parties)
  • Effective communication
  • Mutual respect
  • A balance of power
  • Effective conflict resolution

Similar to marriage, a business partnership is not a decision to take lightly. There is a lot at stake here – money, time, effort, and emotions.

In addition, you’ll be spending many of your waking hours working with this person, so you’ll have to develop an effective working relationship. Choose well.

How to Choose

The goal is to choose a partner who complements your skills, not duplicates them.

Too often we choose people either too much like ourselves or we choose people who are so different than ourselves that we are in constant conflict.

Think about the personality traits you can and can’t work with. This requires being really honest about who you are and what you bring to the table.

Most importantly, pick someone who is as excited and driven as you are to make this business a success.

You don’t have to be best friends with your partner, but you do have to like them enough to work with them.

If that person sort of bugs you right now, just wait until you’re in business together. It won’t be pretty.

Remember, a partnership can be the foundation of your business or it can be your complete undoing.

If you assess strategically, choose wisely, and manage effectively, your partnership can be the cornerstone of your business, and of your success.

More from Women Grow Business:

Mary Abbajay and Karen Bedell, w2wlink experts and co-founders of Careerstone Group LLC, deliver leading edge professional and organizational development solutions to business and government. Careerstone Group’s consulting, facilitation, training, and coaching services help clients create effective, productive and positive workplaces where high-engagement meets high performance. They are committed to helping both the organization and the individual create lasting and sustainable success. Contact them at info [a] careerstonegroup [dot] com

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