Updated: Jan 14, 2022
The marriage you didn’t know you had.
You would be shocked to know how many people I meet with who go into a business partnership without understanding the other person’s background, skillset, and knowledge base - all things that constitute a good foundation for future success.
When I asked how this came to be, my clients realized there was no discussion on how each other approaches business, nor what their vision may be for the future of the company.
If a marriage is to personal life as a partnership is to professional life, the person you may be sharing your home with could very well be a serial killer at that point.
(pause for dramatic effect)
Let’s take a moment to list all the proven factors of a successful marriage:
1. Trust - you wouldn’t allow a contractor into your home without vetting them with your spouse first. What if they are the serial killer?
2. Communication - talking about issues before they become issues and identifying worst case scenarios. If there is none of this, then for sure your spouse is a serial killer.
3. Dedication - taking ownership of agreements made and understanding that if your spouse is a serial killer, would you follow through to help hide the body?
All serial killer jokes aside (fyi, the Night Stalker docu-series is my favorite), it still amazes me the horror stories I hear from people who enter these “business marriages,” without knowing all the facts.
Yet, it happens over and over again. Business partnerships are legally binding in most cases, and this decision should not be taken lightly. Just because you are friends or have done business in the past does not mean they’ll make a good partner in your business. When starting off, it is always a good idea to hire a business coach in order to sort out all the foundational facts.
A business coach, or in my case a Cognitive Behavioral Business Coach, can help with the following concepts in setting up a business partnership.
Let’s call it “pre-business-marital coaching.”
Here’s what to expect:
1. Assigning partner roles and authorizations. Having a crystal clear understanding of what each partner is responsible for and who they are responsible to.
2. Setting expectations and accountability. A coach will help each partner create a written description of what standards each partner will be held to (in my practice, this is viewed as a Standard of Excellence). As well as, an accountability system to ensure these standards are being met.
3. Contributions to the capital. Typically, a financial coach can be brought at this point, specialized in this facet of the “business marriage.” I had a conversation with a client recently in which they explained their partner was hell-bent on the fact that their “sweat-equity” would gain them the capital they needed to get money from the company should things go south. However, this individual was overruled.
4. The ominous exit strategy. Indications of events that would cause a partner to leave the company should be considered (see “worst case scenario” in the above characteristics of a good marriage). A timeline can be made to foresee any triggering events that would cause a partner to stick around for less than the long haul.
5. Expulsion and noncompete provisions. This is the worst case scenario and a very sticky situation for both parties. A provision like this will allow a business partner to be forced to remove themselves from the company. Details around this can be very emotional in nature and require someone (like myself) to help coach each partner through a sound thought process on these requirements.
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There is definitely something to be said about proactive versus reactive behaviors, especially when it comes to “business marriages.” However, let’s take this from the other side of the coin.
What happens if you’ve already formed a business partnership and you fear you have made a critical mistake?
This list is not exhaustive, but is a good starting point for seeing where your partnership
(aka. “Mawwiage” - in our best Princess Bride Priest voice) stands.
1. Are they supportive?
2. Is this partnership rewarding?
3. Is there a feeling of cohesion?
4. Are they open-minded?
5. Is there a sense of protection?
6. Do they challenge you?
7. Are they a catalyst for change?
8. What kind of morale do they have?
9. Can they exclude toxicity?
10. Do they serve the overall mission?
These questions help answer whether or not your business partnership has a sense of commitment to equality, diversity, and flexibility.
Leadership is by example, with an overall sense of personal freedom among each other. Collaboration is built upon rethinking and unlearning old habits - with a drive to create new ones. Assertive communication is the main mode of discussing hard topics, with understanding that the other may need personal time to consider.
Through these concepts, strong individuals CAN emerge to have a successful partnership - no need to worry about any horror stories.
Mackenzie Childs | MSc
Former educator, realist, and wine enthusiast, Mackenzie comes from a diverse background of behavioral intervention, teaching, and business development strategies. As part of a project within the Klein Independent School District to launch a new behavioral program on several campuses, she found her niche in wanting to help others grow their strengths within their career.
Drawing from experience in several industries, Mackenzie brings thoughtful, visionary, and practical coaching within developing organizations. When the stakes are high for a new or veteran executive, a troubled team needs intervention, or transition needs to take place, she can provide planning for the future while simultaneously improving day-to-day function. Her sensitive insight with tough issues defuses tensions and catalyzes collaboration.