Experience on Demand

Successful Partnerships

Michael Bentz, Senior Partner

A father once asked a trusted advisor to evaluate his 2 sons to see who should succeed him when he retired. During the interview process, the older brother told a story about selling candy for a school fundraiser when they were little.  He described his little brother as frail, a charmer and never shy.  He was great at ringing the doorbell and asking for business. The older brother went on to say that he often waited in the street and helped by carrying the heavy boxes of candy. They made a good pair and were very successful.  

Hearing this, the Father knew what he should do. The answer to his dilemma was both.  Both sons should work together managing the company, each with a specific role. The older brother was a natural to run the operations side of the company. He liked the service part of the business, the fleet, the equipment, everything operational. The younger brother was best suited to lead the sales and the financial piece. The two brothers truly complemented each other and went on to great success, just like when they were selling candy.

We deal with many situations where siblings or partners do not complement each other. What these unfortunate situations seem to have in common is either one party feels superior to the other, they possess narrow or similar talents, or they just don’t trust or share very much. We find that good partnerships are built upon the following critical tenants.  

To be successful in any partnership, you must work very hard to foster trust. Go overboard. Explain everything that might raise a question.  Avoid assuming trust is a given.  

You must communicate. Don’t let an annoyance park itself in your head. Get it out in the open. Accept that everything you do might not be appreciated by your partner or partners. You should meet together no less than once per month in a place that you will not be interrupted.  Celebrate your successes.  Ask your partner what you can improve on.  Ask what your partner thinks you do well.  Have fun.  Keep the partnership filled with satisfaction mixed with a dash of humor.

More important than talking is listening to your partners.  Actively listen.  Don’t just listen for an opportunity to chime in and make your own point, but listen to what is being said and what is not being said.  Ask questions without a hidden agenda and build upon the ideas of others.  

Partnerships work when those involved share their ideas and their unique life experiences with the sole purpose of helping the partner and the partnership grow and serve its clients and customers.    

You must genuinely show your partner that you care about his family, his livelihood, his work, his health.  If you have a partner or partners, be sure and thank them for all they do.

Concentrate on your partners strengths.  If he’s the best pitcher, he should pitch. If you’re the best right fielder, that’s where you should be.  People with complementing talents work well together.   If your partner tends to focus on sales, can you concentrate on operations?  What does your partner do better than you?  What would your partner or partners say you do better than them?

Get a pre-nuptial agreement. You hope it works, but plan for what would happen if you have to divorce. But don’t divorce.  Work harder.  Plan for the worst but work hard to ensure the best.  

Other people will follow your lead.  Publicly support your partner or partners.   The partnership will benefit and your customers will appreciate the service and example.  

Partnerships can sometimes slow down the decision process or cause passionate uncomfortable debate but in the end the pain is worth the gain.   Generally speaking, the upside of different perspectives and input is greater than the downside of multiple people and their differing opinions.  
A partner is someone to help you up when business hurts…. and someone to celebrate success with you when things are going well.  Partnerships can be frustrating but the investment will pay dividends for yourself and those served by the business.