Most entrepreneurs will tell you that their business is their child. So choosing who will help you father that child is a serious long-term commitment that will determine the course of the rest of your life, business and otherwise.
In my career as an entrepreneur, I’ve experienced both sides of the coin – a partnership that didn’t last the distance and one that has successfully flourished and continues to improve with age. I’ve been in business with Frank Restuccia, my co-founder and partner in finder.com.au and the recently launched US offshoot finder.com, for 13 years. Over that time, our partnership has been tested and strengthened through every milestone, setback and achievement.
Here are the five lessons we’ve learned along the way on how to last the distance.
1. Have clearly defined roles
The old cliché about opposites attracting can be a plus in business, too. Frank and I have completely different skill sets. I have technical training and tackle a challenge from a creative perspective, while Frank’s finance background means he approaches any decision from a business and marketing perspective. When you’re honest about your individual strengths and weaknesses, and set clearly defined roles within the business, you’ll avoid any overlap or unnecessary conflict.
2. Have a shared vision
In one of those miracles where everything falls into place, Frank and I realised very early on that we had a shared vision of our futures. We scribbled our goals with red texta on a nearby newspaper at one of our first meetings, and that vision still forms the basis of the journey we are on. After 13 years our vision has not once veered off course and Frank and I still quietly celebrate even the smallest milestone together.
3. Spend time together outside of work
There’s a widespread belief in the business world that you should never do business with friends. But I believe becoming friends with your business partner is good for business. In our case, we bonded over some enthusiastic celebrating of our early successes, which has helped us learn how to read each other in business situations and know when the other person isn’t feeling well emotionally. This can pay dividends in diffusing tensions before they flare up and we can look out for each other to ensure we avoid burnout.
4. Trust each other implicitly
It might sound like a corporate cliché but this is a no-brainer. Without trust, your partnership will most likely fail. To me, trust in a business partnership means having the other person’s back and taking care of their interests and property as if they are yours. The trust between business partners trickles down to the rest of the business, its culture and ethos, and ultimately determines the business’s success. If you get it right, the trust between you will only get stronger over the years.
5. Don’t be afraid of a good debate – and make sure you listen
In other words, communicate. You won’t always agree on everything so it’s important to learn to debate in an honest and respectful manner early on. If you genuinely listen to your partner’s argument, you are more likely to achieve an outcome you are both happy with. And that’s another reason why trust is so hugely important. There will be times when you need to call the other person out on an issue. There have been instances where I’ve made mistakes but Frank wasn’t afraid to bring it up, which allows us to deal with the issue upfront, fix the problem and move on.
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