What Do Successful Business Partnerships Have in Common?

By: Kristy DeSmit | March 11, 2014

What Do Successful Business Partnerships Have in Common?

Throughout history, the right mix of chemistry and cooperation has led to some truly inspiring partnerships.

From the Wright brothers, to Bill Gates and Paul Allen, these partners found success through their compatibility, hard work and shared passion.

Most partnerships originate from similar interests and develop into a business. Here are the common characteristics of popular dream teams who have left their mark on corporate America:

Trust

Before entering a partnership with one or more people, you have to trust them. This means depending on your partner to make decisions in the best interest of the company.

Hewlett-Packard (HP) founders, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard trusted each other from the time they met at Stanford University in 1934. Their management style reflected their belief in each other and was built on trusting and respecting their employees, which they referred to as “The HP Way.”

A start up business will see its share of ups and downs. During this time, having a partner you can count on will help you weather the storm. Moving past these growing pains, while still remaining a team, proves your partnership has long-term potential.

Remember, trust is a gut feeling. If you don’t trust your partner with your business, then you may need to reevaluate your decision to collaborate.

Complimentary Characteristics

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, co-founders of Apple, shared a complimentary skill set. In 1970, Jobs saw the value of Wozniak’s original computer model. With Jobs’ business savvy and Wozniak’s technical capabilities, the two partners combined skills to create an empire. They each capitalized on their individual strengths, while still supporting each others skills and collaborating on mutual goals.

A successful partnership is balanced, not only in power but in responsibility. Each partner should be assigned roles based on their strengths. When partners tend to their own responsibilities, there is less chance of conflict because you both trust in each others unique abilities.

A diverse and complimentary skill set is valuable for problem solving and creativity. While each partner offers their own separate skills to the business, partners should work together to collaborate on business values to move their company forward.

Values and Vision

Successful partners share similar life values and vision for their business. You don’t have to agree on everything (in fact, it’s healthy if you don’t), but there should be agreement on your company’s goals and objectives.

Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield combined their passion for food to create the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream brand. As childhood friends, they grew up together. Ben and Jerry run their business on the value of community, where they often participate in non-profit campaigns. Jerry says, “We measured our success not just by how much money we made, but by how much we contributed to the community. It was a two part bottom line.”

Make sure you and your partner agree on a common goal and demonstrate your adherence to the values in every decision you make. eBay founder, Pierre Omidyar, hired Jeffery Skoll to write him a business plan in 1996. The two collaborated on values of community and democracy to scale eBay into an online auction and shopping success.

A business plan is a good starting point for partners to discuss ideas for growth and identify the values in which to propel their business forward.

Sergey Brin and Larry Page, co-founders of Google, knew their vision from the start and used their motto, “Don’t Be Evil”, as shared motivation during Google’s growth.

Communication

Effective communication with your partner fuels every other characteristic for a successful partnership.

When partners communicate freely, they learn to accept each others mistakes and avoid blame and criticism. Talking honestly creates transparency and allows for the open exchange of feedback and ideas. You can learn from one another, grant each other knowledge and provide perspective on problems. Regular dialogue also feeds creativity and ensures you are on the same page.

Evan Williams, Biz Stone and Jack Dorsey developed their idea for Twitter during a daylong brainstorming session. Exchanging ideas in a supportive environment spurred a multi-billion dollar idea and one of the largest micro-blogging platforms in the world.

Communication also means listening. Provide support and encouragement to a partner in need and praise their accomplishments. You are a team and ultimately, their success is your success.

Mutual Respect

Respect threads throughout all successful business relationships. When you respect your partner, you see worth in their skills and opinions.

William H. Gates, father of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, respected his son’s initiatives ever since the start of Bill’s career when he invested a portion in Bill’s company. Today, the respect is more than reciprocal, as they work together as co-chairs, along with Bill’s mother Melinda, of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Feelings of superiority or egotism are a surefire way to destroy the balance of a partnership. Each party brings different, but equally viable skills to the relationship. Contributions should more or less reflect this perspective, depending on your shares in the company. Treat your partner as your equal and you’ll reap the benefits of working together as a team.

Chemistry and Passion

Most entrepreneurs are passionate by nature. However, sometimes it can take another person or group of people to transform that passion to reality.

Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, known for their brand Dolce and Gabbana, bonded over their love for fashion and now have multiple fashion lines dressing the likes of Madonna and Beyonce.

Shared energy and enthusiasm tends to bring people together. Google’s Larry and Sergey did not get along initially, but this was mostly due to the challenges they asserted on one another. There was no denying their instant chemistry, which later evolved into a spirited partnership and lasting friendship.

As John D. Rockefeller put it, “A friendship founded on business is a good deal better than a business founded on friendship.”

Business is Business

Partners can collaborate on passion projects all they want, but if they can’t work during business hours, the business won’t sustain growth and may eventually fail.

Rules and boundaries are created to keep business separate from personal friendships, which are the natural start or result of many successful partnerships. A partnership agreement specifies each party’s interest in the business and holds partners accountable for their individual responsibilities.

Not only will a contract outline a partner’s contributions, profit and loss distribution, accounting, management, voting or decision making methods, but it can also cover contingencies for the withdrawal or dissolution of a partnership. Creating this agreement exhibits mutual respect, understanding and commitment to a business partnership. It also protects you as an individual.

Entrepreneurs Warren Buffet and Steve Jobs wouldn’t enter business partnerships without drafting an agreement to define their working relationships, so why should you?

Print My Free Partnership Agreement

What other characteristics are key to a successful partnership? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

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Kristy DeSmit

Marketing Writer at LawDepot
Kristy is an avid blogger, Twitter enthusiast and company legalese interpreter.
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