Partnerships Are Just Like a Marriage

Numerous people have asked me if I’m married or had been over the years, and the answer has always been no and for a good reason – it’s hard to find the right partner that can be compromising, a ride or die companion, as well as it’s someone I’m just not willing to settle for to have someone in my life.  Mind you there’s been a few long-term relationships, but over time it just didn’t work out because we couldn’t get on the same page with our goals and objectives.

The reason this topic came up is because I’m reminded that Warren Buffet mentioned that marriage was the biggest decision of his life because it said it changed his entire outlook on what he determined as being successful.  Although he mentioned this after his second marriage, he still held his first wife, Susan, in very high regard and kept a tremendous amount of respect as she was still a director for Berkshire Hathaway her until her death in 2004.

How does this relate as a business owner?  Well choosing a business partner or an investor is a big deal because it’s easy to get married – it’s unbelievably costly to get that divorce.  Yes, I’ve spoken to many people who have explored the option and asked me my thoughts on the matter, and it’s always been suggested that not only finding a good attorney to draw up the paperwork but also plan everything out as to what the other expects.  Unfortunately, many fail to look before they leap and end up spending more time and money getting that divorce rather than figuring out if they were even a good match to begin with.

No you may not be living with this person(s) so you don’t care about their annoying habits or you’ve known them for years as a friend and you feel like it would work out, but guess what – it’s still a marriage that can cost you not only your money but your vision.

Have you considered these talking points with that potential business marriage?

  • When conflict comes about, do you both agree on how to handle it, just pass it off to the other and expect them to deal with it, or just let it work itself out?
  • What does everyone bring to the table outside of money? If you both have the same outlook on everything, then there’s never going to be a challenge to better yourselves or allow the business to adapt and grow.
  • Are you willing to consider counseling before entering into the partnership to see if you share the same goal of the business? It’s always a beneficial idea to get an outside person’s objective point of view and point out things that neither of you considered as to what you need.
  • What is your agreement regarding spending money, i.e. do you have to agree on anything over a set dollar amount, can you both just randomly take cash out of the bank without alerting the other person, if one person is “checked out” can they still benefit from the business?

How will you look out for each other?  So many marriages often end up with the people living separate lives because they forgot to consider what their partner’s limitations are and as business leaders it’s important to show a united front because people are buying into the image, not just the product or service you sell.

Not everything can be put in writing, but in the end, you need to make sure that the key points are handled as best as possible to minimize disastrous fall-out.  I’ve seen many marriages and friendships not survive from a business partnership, and it always boiled down to hurt feelings and money, which all could have been avoided had they realized that just like any marriage, you constantly work on it.

Dwayne J. Briscoe