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How you should - and shouldn't - treat your Business Partner!

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by Startacus Admin

We all remember the first time: your eyes meet across a crowded room and before long you’re talking passionately.

Never mind that it’s at a networking event and you’re getting excited about the advantages of open source versus Microsoft. This is a special moment: you’ve just found your business soul mate.

Boy, it’s difficult being by yourself sometimes, especially when running your own business. You have to make sure you maintain momentum and self-Co-Founderbelief at all times. Sometimes a little outside help is all you need. In fact, success - whatever business or whichever stage you’re at – depends on attracting the right partners. You don’t want to end up alone like Charles Foster Kane, garbling the names of your childhood toys. So, just in time for the launch of the search for entrepreneurial couples to star in a BBC2 documentary, we take a look at how you should - and shouldn't - treat your business partner.

Many of us have a checklist of what we want in a suitable lover and when it comes to business, it’s even more important to be clear on your priorities. You can’t give them equity on the basis they have a GSOH.

Make sure they complement you: Are you better with data or more comfortable smooth talking to customers? Be clear on your own shortcomings to ensure your partner doesn’t replicate them. Steve Wozniak built the computer while Steve Jobs had the commercial dream. Ebay’s Pierre Omidyar was the coder and Jeffrey Skoll was the MBA grad who wrote the business plan. Larry Page and Sergey Brin were both coders with university professors for parents. They quickly decided to bring Eric Schmidt on board to instil the laidback do-good ethos to the brand.

So it’s sensible to identify roles and responsibilities clearly so you don’t end up stepping on each other’s toes.

Make sure you share values: Despite their different backgrounds, Omidyar and Skoll both believed in the importance of CSR. Only three years after launching, they decided to endow a charity foundation with pre-IPO stock.

Make sure you share expectations: Just as it’s never nice to realise your girlfriend thought you were casually ‘seeing each other’ while you were planningco-founder to propose, it’s never fair when one business partner wakes up to the fact they’ve been putting in far more effort than the other. Make sure you both have the same ambitions for your company’s journey.

Make sure you put aside time for bonding: It’s important to get on with your partner and, especially during the hard times, remember why you enjoy their company. After graduating from Stanford’s engineering program, Hewlett and Packard went on a two-week camping trip after which they became life-long friends and business partners.

Make sure disagreements don’t fester: Sometimes couples have to seek outside help. The business version of a marriage counsellor is a consultant. Sometimes it helps to have a third person present with whom you can thrash out issues.

Make sure you have a plan B: Sometimes things aren’t meant to work out. Dissolve your partnership the Gwyneth Paltrow way and go for ‘conscious uncoupling’. It’s more dignified than full out war à la Heather Mills and Paul McCartney. If you have a watertight prenup it makes things even easier. And when the dust has settled, work out what you could do better and then move on. Your business is your baby. Whether you’re looking for a new partner or prefer to be a single parent, dwelling on the past will only hold up that future business opportunity.

Do you have any tips for keeping your business romance alive?

Fleur Mcdonald writes for Club Workspace - a network of coworking venues across London for start-ups and SMEs based in Clerkenwell, Bethnal Green, London Bridge, Chiswick and others. 

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Published on: 22nd May 2014

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