A business partnership is like a marriage. Remember that first date? The passion, the excitement, the plotting and planning. Those secret meetings perhaps? Perhaps something forced your hand – redundancy, a re-structuring or lack of promotion. Perhaps there was pressure from a third party – a shot-gun marriage (hey, it happens), whatever brings you together in either business or marriage, one thing is for sure – you’re making a big commitment.
It’s true to say that not all marriages are made in heaven and that (according to the office of national statistics) one-in-three relationships will end in divorce. The same can be true of business relationships with one-in-five business partnerships failing within the first year.
So what’s the secret of a good marriage or long-term business partnership? I think I’m well qualified to comment on both, having been happily married to Sharon for over 25 years and been in business with Murray for over 17 years (it feels much longer some days!)
The key to it all in my opinion is tolerance. You’re certainly not going to agree on everything and some days you’re going to disagree on everything! The golden rule for us in the early days was that if we couldn’t agree on something then we’d just not do it. These days things have become slightly easier and board meetings less fraught when we invited a third shareholder into the business – Rob Wilmot. Rob provides an experienced third-party viewpoint and we can now vote two-to-one on sensitive issues.
So what happens when offspring/staff come along? That happy relationship can often get strained as you take your eye off the ball to nurture and support them. At the end of the day a well-run business is like a well-organised family, not like an episode of “Family Guy” where they seem to be in constant conflict and confusion.
Oh yes, and then there’s teenagers – petulant youth who want to take over the world. One piece of advice I’ll give you, always employ as many as you can – they need little training because they know it all!
In business terms, they’ll grow into your managers and directors and help you develop your business and eventually become part of your succession team.
Business partnerships, like marriage, can end in tears, but equally, they can be a most rewarding career choice and provide a lifetime of passion, excitement, financial and emotional reward. The key to it all is tolerance – stick at it! It’s a long game.