This month the Ladies Who Launch online magazine is devoted to partnerships. Women so often jump into partnerships in business because, simply, they'd rather not do it alone. All that enthusiasm and hope for the future success of the business can quite easily cloud otherwise sane vision. Divina Ling, an economist in southern California, makes some great points about getting in business-bed together. Put on your most pragmatic hat and walk through the details! This is like a marriage in that it is much easier to get into....than out of. Choose wisely, and once chosen, navigate the waters with the same respect you'd give a loved one. The union is just as critical to your financial future.
Amy Swift, Editor in Chief, Ladies Who Launch
Shack Up Wisely
by Davina Ling, Ph.D.
Founder of Economic Consulting Group, LLC & Assistant Professor of
Economics at California State University, Fullerton
Recently, I got re-connected to several fellow alumni from our Ladies who Launch incubator. With one of them, we started discussing business ideas and potential partnership. As we sat down over salads and vegetarian chili, we found great commonalities and business potential to work together. We could complement each other's strengths and fortes, share our talents and resources, and divide up the work, hence jointly growing a secondary business. From all perspectives, it is a win-win situation. As the excitement and enthusiasm for our business idea mounted, the knot in my stomach also grew proportionately. I have seen many friendships turned sour over the topic of money and business. How could we avoid the pitfalls of business partnerships that could destroy the emerging venture and could leave scars in the budding friendship? The following are some tips on building successful working relationships and partnerships.
1. Be Wise in Selecting a Business Partner: Many problems could be avoided by being prudent and astute in your selection process. Is the person trustworthy? Does the person (or persons) have integrity? Do you respect them? Could you rely on them? Do they have similar work ethics? Are there questionable practices in his or her business dealings even from the beginning? While personality differences could be worked through, doubtful character and dubious values should be avoided.
2. Honesty and Being Up-Front: Be honest about the motivation and expectations of your new enterprise. Managing each other's expectations well is the key. Unmet, unrealistic, and mismatched expectation usually leads to frustration and resentment. Be clear about objectives, roles, work division, as well as the sharing of rewards and incentives. In protecting relationships and friendship, I usually set good boundaries and guidelines in writing to avoid confusion and ambiguity that only mislead expectations.
3. Open Communication: Similar to any great relationships, there have to be open channels of communication. You need to talk things out when there are differences in opinion. Conflict avoidance hinders communication and passive-aggressive spoils relationships. Don't let things slip in the midst of busyness. It is the "little foxes in the fields that could destroy the vineyard." Remember to touch base with your business partner on a regularly basis.
4. Agree to Disagree: The most productive and effective partnerships consist of two or more people with different strengths that complement each other. However ironically with these differences in strengths, personalities and working styles, your greatest strengths could be your greatest weakness. Accept these differences (and weaknesses) graciously and take a step back to appreciate them. Sit down and talk about the differences in an open-minded way. See how you could each work with each other's strengths and weaknesses without judgment. Learn to accept that you are not always right. There are many roads that lead to the same goal.
5. Be Forgiving, Gracious, and Open-Minded: As in all relationships, we are working with imperfect people (ourselves included). No one can be imperfect. There are always trials and errors, as well as growing pains in each partnership. Leave room for grace and forgiveness when there are setbacks and mistakes, particularly miscommunication. Don't jump to conclusions about someone's motives and desires prematurely without trying to clarifying with the person first and immediately. If you are working with a friend or someone you trust, in all likelihood it may be just a misunderstanding or miscommunication. Give the benefit of the doubt.
These simple rules may be intuitive and simple but if you don't apply them early on in your work culture, it could lead to later problems that may be stumbling blocks and stunt growth. Furthermore, business partnerships not only hold promising potentials for business development, practicing the tips above may also be challenging to our sense of comfort zone and could bring personal development as well as maturity. In addition, these tips could be applied to other relationships such as family situations and marriage. They help in conflict resolution and identifying areas of tension. The more you practice them in business, the more they will transform your business and personal relationships.