For Your Partnership to Succeed, It Needs to Be Balanced
I've written about the importance of starting a business with a co-founder to more effectively share in the responsibilities and decision-making -- and I do continue to believe that it’s extremely important to have a co-founder.
With that said, there are certainly a handful of important points that lie within both the business and the partnership that you must address and, most important, address them before they happen so that you don’t find yourself in a situation where your success, and that of your company, is at risk.
The best partnerships come when you’ve found another person that doesn’t share the same capabilities and/or thought processes. To be specific, someone that’s not like you. So in order to get the benefits of a true partnership, you need to have some opposing ideas and differing but complimentary skill sets and although you both need to know and understand what is going in throughout the company, it’s really important that you’re not sharing every decision.
Part of an effective partnership is knowing that you can trust your counterpart to do what’s best and make the right decisions in their day-to-day responsibilities. Of course you need to work together on the larger decisions that affect the direction of your company, but if you’re both overseeing the same things, it’s going to quickly feel like one person is looking over the other’s shoulder. Also, this is completely inefficient.
How do you communicate?
Startups move fast and, as a result, require fast decisions -- that’s what gives new companies a huge advantage against larger and more rigid established competitors. So you’re not going to be able to talk about every single decision -- as covered in the previous point -- but you do need to understand what’s going on throughout the broader context of the company, which comes with communication.
Make sure that you set up a specific date and time for a weekly meeting, whether at the beginning or end of the week -- or maybe both -- and use the opportunity to discuss the greater decisions that were or need to be made so you can both add in from your differing view points or areas of expertise to come to the best decisions for your company.
You absolutely must set expectations.
This point is really one that needs to be established well before a formal partnership is structured -- although I realize that sometimes it’s just not that simple. You and your partner(s) need to have an understanding, in writing, as to who is responsible for what and what the expectations are for your time and responsibilities, as well as any financial commitments.
It’s really easy to just believe that you’re friends and you’ll work anything out and it may be uncomfortable to sit and hammer out expectations, but when things get really difficult, everyone’s true colors show and you need to be able to refer to a written agreement to hold others accountable.
Adam Callinan is a founder at BottleKeeper, the fast-paced and sarcasm-infused solution to the warm beer and broken bottle epidemics that have plagued the world for centuries. Callinan is also a founding partner at Beachwood Ventures, a Los Angeles-based early-stage and non-traditional venture-capital firm at the intersection of technology and entertainment. As an entrepreneur, Callinan has spent over a decade building small businesses in and around technology, medical devices and consumer products, which most recently includes an exit in 2013. Callinan lives in Manhattan Beach with his wife Katie.