7 Principles For Building And Maintaining A Successful Partnership

My Dad and his partner, Emil, owned two gas stations for nearly 20 years. They had a wonderful partnership, though they spent little time together at work or in their personal lives. Dad summed it up as “Emil liked the books and I was good out front, which worked out pretty well.”

Partnerships are challenging endeavors for most, especially adventurous entrepreneurs and determined executives. However, they can accelerate business development, especially when complementary skills and markets are involved. Some key principles of successful partnerships include:

  1. While you have separate individual interests, there must be a shared vision of the outcome, with goals and specific objectives, accountabilities and timelines.
  2. The focus on results and measureable progress should be instituted with a regular joint review and recalibration for future reviews.
  3. A written agreement should always be in place with all key points understandable to each party in actionable terms (“so if this happens then I have these options”).
  4. There needs to be an understanding that the relationship will evolve, even in very time-limited projects. Something will happen that cannot be specifically foreseen, so a mutual vigilance will lessen the impact of the event, especially if it has the potential to be perceived negatively.
  5. Each partner has to be able to appreciate their benefit from a partnership in tangible and intangible ways. Most successful partnerships have a spirit of accomplishment that one partner might not attain operating alone.
  6. Partners will encounter some challenges that may require one or both partners to compromise to benefit both partners. Generally, the most important issue is often how the compromise is handled, not the actual compromise itself.
  7. To emphasize a principle contained in the previous six, successful partners have clarity about their roles and they respect their role differentiation.

Implicit in these principles is a sense of growth and increased tolerance. Dad and Emil had divergent political beliefs (FDR Democrat vs. Conservative Republican) but they became increasingly respectful of their differences over time. It seems that the differences meant less as the desire to work and prosper together grew.