You're putting together an amazing team. You want people who can help you solve knotty problems (like finding enough working capital) and to help you stay on top of all of the pesky details of starting or running a company.
But don't forget: You have to be a pretty amazing business partner too. After all, the more together you are, the less hard you'll have to look for people to join your business. You won't be looking for them; they'll be coming to you.
So if want to be a better collaborator, the following tips can help you up your game.
1. Let your business partner shine.
We all have our superpowers. One of the best ways to collaborate is to let your business partner work on what he or she enjoys doing and is good at and get out of the way. If that happens to be staying on top of working capital and managing the cash flow, let your partner take the lead. If your partner excels in marketing, and you think marketing is what you do at a grocery store, step back.
Tom Scarda is the CEO and founder of The Franchise Academy, a franchisor and franchisee matchmaking service in Wantagh, New York. He has co-owned and operated a couple franchises with his wife Gina, and came to the conclusion that sometimes the best way to collaborate is to not collaborate.
When the Scardas bought a smoothie company and then a meal delivery business, Tom saw how skilled Gina was in customer service and media interviews.
“Although I admired her gift, deep down, I was jealous," he says. “It came out as down-putting or [being] negative toward her."
But once he embraced the fact that they should make Gina the face of their businesses, Scarda says that the companies—and their relationship—improved.
“So, when working with a partner, let the partner be themselves. Allow them to work in areas where they thrive, and don't interfere. Everyone will be happier for it," he says.
2. Be honest with your business partner.
“My key rule of making a partnership successful is always be refreshingly honest in your candor, even if it means having a difficult conversation," says Kevin Tash, the founder and CEO of Tack Media, a digital marketing agency in Los Angeles.
The most important thing about working together as business partners is putting each other first and keeping lines of communication open, while [being] truthful, humble and kind.
—Katherine Hervey, co-owner, Freed Outfitters
You may have to tone down your honesty a bit, but do be honest. So if you need to have a difficult conversation regarding your partner's spending and what it's doing to your working capital and cash flow, do it. If you think your partner is making some boneheaded decisions, say something.
Honesty can even be more important when the partners are, say, a big client, Tash says.
“Partners appreciate and respect that out of any relationship,” he explains. “It demonstrates that you are willing to have hard conversation, and it's not all about wins."
3. Take an interest in your business partner.
You know the saying: It's better to give than receive. It's also smart business.
Jacob Twig, owner and founder of The Professional Moving Specialists in Chicago says that in his experience, “successful partnerships come from understanding both the personal and professional interests and nuances of your partner. It requires a little more time than a typical transaction, but in the long run this investment of time provides a pathway for transparency and long-term investment in one another's success."
For instance, Twig likes to learn what charitable or philanthropic interest a partner or vendor may have.
“In some cases I've been able to find ways for us to join forces and benefit those causes or efforts, which has always led to increased business and connectivity," he says.
4. Do unto others as, well, you know…
The best way to collaborate with a business partner is arguably to be the type of partner you would like to work with.
“We are co-owners of our business; we operate design, shipping and receiving, social media, marketing and finance. We also donate a portion of our profit to an orphanage in India called Mason's Place, which was started in the memory of one of our dear friends' son," she says.
Hervey and her sister-in-law both work from their homes in Tennessee and Idaho respectively while their kids are in school. They have certain guidelines that they both adhere to—their families come first, and the work comes second.
That doesn't mean they aren't constantly working (“We keep to-do lists, write down ideas, meet over the Marco Polo app and text and email at night," Hervey says), but they always respect each other's family time.
While the sisters-in-law don't always agree on everything—no business partners do—Hervey says that “the most important thing about working together as business partners is putting each other first and keeping lines of communication open, while [being] truthful, humble and kind. Nothing that gets done within a business is worthwhile if we step on each other in the process."
By being a better collaborator, you're more likely to be a better business partner running a better business.
Read more articles on leadership skills.
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