6 Steps to 'Dancing' Through Conversations With Your Business Partners

6 Steps to 'Dancing' Through Conversations With Your Business Partners
Image credit: Shutterstock
Reader Resource

Position yourself for growth in 2017—join us live at the Entrepreneur 360.
Flash Sale—save up to $200 on registration. Ends Thursday. Secure Your Seat »

What does it mean to have a successful business partnership?  How can you keep it going? A successful partnership is when two or more people work together in tandem to achieve a common goal. 

Successful partnerships require work, no matter what form they take or where they're made.  As a business owner by day and a competitive ballroom dancer by night, I've discovered how much the two seemingly different domains can learn from each other.  

Ballroom dance partners must be in perfect, harmonious step with each other, which can only be accomplished through ongoing communication and practice, similar to business partnerships.

But how do you effectively establish and maintain partnerships?  In partner dancing there are different stages of conversations necessary to have at the beginning of each ballroom dance relationship. They apply to business as well. 

Related: 10 Questions to Ask Before Committing to a Business Partner

Here are six ways to keep our business partnerships in sync:

1. Establish definitions

When parties come together in dance and in business, it is crucial to establish what success means to each person. By frankly discussing your meanings of success during a relationship’s infancy, you can avoid potential mismatches and get in step sooner. 

2. Build upon common strengths

Look for commonalities, especially if you and your partner seem very different at first. For example, in ballroom dancing, duos might share a strength of understanding music composition, even though they don’t have the same dance training. The same is true with business. While you and your partner may have different levels of technical expertise, you might share a solid understanding of a certain industry.

Related: 5 Things to Do Before Saying 'I Do' to a Business Partner

3. Dream together 

What do you really want to accomplish as a result of your partnership?  Think big and then present the possibilities to your partner and have him or her do the same for you. Finding ways to share possible opportunities will cause the partnership to begin in a flexible, open and honest way.

In a business setting, you can use this process to figure out which proposals or market opportunities you’d like to team up on or what shared passions you may each have.

4. Feel the goal

What common purpose would make you both feel successful?  The “feeling” of success is important at this stage. It is not the idea or thought, but the way you would “feel” when successful.

Do you feel inspired? Do you feel hungry enough to want to achieve that goal? Do you jointly have the same passion towards that goal? If your goal is to merely get in shape, but your partner’s goal is to compete nationally, is this a good match?  Or if you want to scale quickly but your business partner wants a lifestyle business, you may need to rethink the collaboration.

Many partnerships fail because the “feeling” of interests don’t align. Sometimes one partner will merely dabble while another has jumped in with both feet. Have a heart to heart and pay attention to how you feel at this stage.

5. Have the commitment talk

This can be tricky, but is so important.  Are you both truly committed to whatever it is you’re about to undertake?  Will you both commit to the practice schedule to learn your new routine?  Will you both prioritize to meet deadlines?

There is nothing more frustrating than realizing halfway through a project that your partner is not truly interested, engaged or willing to do what needs to be done.  Another aspect of the “commitment talk” is to discuss what methods you will employ to achieve your goals.  

6. Respect the partnership 

Everything might be going smoothly, with both partners having successfully passed through the necessary conversations together, but the communication must continue.  If your partner is unable to make the practice schedule one week, he or she must communicate that in advance so your time and worth is respected. Or if they can't commit to an important meeting, they must let the other person know. Once someone in a partnership feels disrespected, it can be very difficult to earn back that trust.  

By having honest, respectful, productive conversations with your partner, you will find the rhythm to help you smoothly and purposefully dance your way through business relationships.    

Related: How to Manage Your Business Partner