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Why Your Business Partner Should Be Nothing Like You Having a partner with drastically different experience, skills and ways of communicating can help you run your business better.

By Charles Van Vechten Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


My business partner and I are polar opposites. He thinks I'm meticulous and I think he's messy and impulsive. But it's because of these differences that our business partnership works well. If it didn't, I doubt we'd have been able to quadruple the size of our company despite the tough economy.

Our secret? I like to think we are each other's anti-selves. Although we both envisioned starting a client-centered design firm that produces great results, most of our similarities end there. We don't walk, talk or approach our business the same way. You'd think we wouldn't even be able to agree on what to have for lunch. Knowing how oil and water mix, it would be easy to think our firm, Jacob Tyler should be a disaster. However, our business continues to thrive.

Is it possible your company would be better run as a partnership with someone who sees the world differently than you do? Here are four tips to finding an anti-self partner who can help you grow your business exponentially:

1. Broaden your social and professional circle. This is the simplest step, yet it's the hardest. That's because we tend to surround ourselves with people who look, think and act like us most of the time -- from friends to employees. Think outside the box a bit and you might remember a friendly face from an association conference or even a competitor who does great work.

Related: Why Partnering With Your Competition Could Be Your Key to Success

2. Think peanut butter and chocolate, not lemon juice and ice cream. Of course, you can take the whole idea of contrasting personalities too far. It doesn't make sense to join forces with someone you don't respect, or even outright resent. One of the interesting things about our partnership is that we almost always reach the same decision -- even if we take drastically different paths to get there. What we have learned is that deep down, both of us value and respect the same things and each other.

3. Divide and conquer. Often creative shops are run by two print designers or a pair of internet marketing types. It's probably that way in most businesses and industries. After all, it only makes sense for a pair of similar professionals come together, but this is one natural tendency that should be avoided. Two or more people with the same skills and methodology will end up duplicating work, or worse, stepping on each other's toes.

By partnering with someone who brings a different skill set to the table -- in my case, Les had a strong background in web work while most of my business was built on print design -- each partner gains something. That leads to better work and a broader perspective, but it also helps smooth out differences in opinion. Since one of us is an authority in a different area, we're forced to rely on each other's best judgments when making tough calls.

4. Some sharing is good. While my partner and I divide up specific tasks, the overall strategic vision is formed together as are questions pertaining to employment, major investments, changes in client relationships, and so on.

Going into business with your anti-partner might seem like a crazy thing to do; it certainly did to us right up until we found out how well it worked. If your company could use another perspective, try to find another personality who could be the best partner you never knew you were looking for.

Related: How to Get More Out of the Time You Already Spend Networking

Charles Van Vechten is the president and chief creative officer at Jacob Tyler, a San Diego-based brand communications agency specializing in brand development, print collateral, web design, web development, product design and online marketing. Contact Charles at

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