I remember watching my parents as a child, working together, running a company and living together and thinking “my parents are insane”. Well, to some extent I was right, it’s hard enough to find a partner in business or a husband/wife that you know you will go the distance with, let alone finding both in one person and for the vast majority it doesn’t work. But in many ways business partnerships are just as hard as marriage and they require just as much work. I’ve watched and experienced multiple partnerships come and go, and it’s fascinating when you see business partners that just make it work. Building and running companies is tough work and often lonely, even when you are surrounded by people. The most successful entrepreneurs rarely reach the top alone, Steve Jobs had Steve Wozniak, Walt Disney had his brother Roy. Be it Warner Brothers, Ben & Jerry, Twitter, Microsoft or MacDonalds, business has proven it’s a lot easier to build a great company when you have a great partner(s).
So what makes these partnerships successful when so many others fail? Here’s three ways to identify a strong business, leadership or partnership.
Like the basis of any good relationship, whether it’s between manager and employee, business and client, a leadership team or business partners, trust is core to everything else. Without trust nothing else can happen. As such, business partnerships generally need a history. Trust is rarely given freely or established immediately, it’s built over time, through honest and authentic conversations and backed up by actions. So if you are considering a partnership or building a leadership team, this has to be step one, if you feel that you need to censor yourself in front of your partner or leadership team, then you need to think again. Trust is key to honest communication. So invest before you invest so to speak. Do you trust that person to make a the right call without you there? Do you trust them financially? Having awkward conversations in the beginning can save massive pain further down the track.
Most businesses and people fail to effectively communicate their why, their purpose. Alternatively, the most successful companies why’s are clear, whether it’s Apples' mission to Think Different, Virgins' culture of fun, or Tony Robbins belief in giving and living for something bigger than yourself, the most successful entrepreneurs can clearly communicate their why and it resonates with their staff and customers. Every organisation needs a clear why and often there’s the why guy (or girl), the person that inspires and unifies the organisation to feel good the emotive right side of the brain or the limbic which helps staff to ‘just get it’. But most organisations, leaderships and partnerships need more than a why to get their message to the mass, they need a how. The how guy (or girl), is the one that rallies the staff to get things done. You’ll know the how guy because he’s the one that ‘likes to build things’, the one that creates the buzz and feels best when the dotted line is signed, the deal is done and the bridge is built, this is so that he can move onto the next challenge.
Whys need the hows to keep their feet on the ground and the books balanced, the hows need the whys to provide a compass, to keep them moving in the right direction and on the straight and narrow. The Hows of the world can be successful without a why, but will only find real fulfilment when the right why comes along.
Great partnerships and leadership teams complement, not copy, each other, the diversity in skills and opinions paired with the trust to openly communicate thoughts and feelings and a united belief of why you do what you do is an unstoppable formula for success. An army of yes men may send a loud message, but it won't be as effective as group or pair of individuals collaborating together to achieve a shared belief. Accepting that everyone has different strengths and knowing when to let your partner take the lead or when to take a back seat is crucial to finding a healthy balance. While there is usually an alpha, or a front man (and not necessarily the one and same), accepting your limitations and your partners' strengths is often the most difficult challenges for some in finding the right partner, especially when it means admitting there are times when you may be wrong, but as Ghandi would say "It is unwise to be too sure of one's own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err." So when your manager, co-leader or partner does err, give them a break and remember to err is human.
Like I said in the beginning, leadership can be lonely, partnerships can be hard, but great things are never easy and if you can find a great partner or team to work with. Appreciate them and what you have, if not, keep moving forward and look to the future for your next Mr or Mrs Business Right.