What has been your experience working with partners?
I'm interested in hearing about experiences you've had bringing in partners to your business. What works? What doesn't? What should you have done but didn't do? What are the "must dos?" Do you find more success bringing in a stranger as a partner or a friend?
My first partner and my mentor said it very clearly: "Partnerships don;t work." To which I asked: "Why are we doing it then?" And he replied: "As long as we both understand this, we will work harder to make it work."
I have partnered with many over the years and with those who didn't understand this concept, the partnership failed on a bad note. Those who did, we were successful. So, make sure everybody knows their roles, and you don't step on each other's toes.
Partnerships can work as long as there are agreements to outline the terms of what that means to each party. Many times because people are family members or friends they do not feel they need one and it ends up causing family problems and loss of friends.
Total strangers aren't necessarily a good idea either as you need to know whether you can get along with that person and are able to work together. You can bring in a partner for skills you need, but you want to make sure they will work well in the business as well as with you. It would be good to look for a partner that has different strengths they bring to the table versus yourself and determine how you plan to work together. If this a shareholder situation, you need to make sure you have a shareholder agreement.
Good paper makes good partners and understanding the goals of each party and who is doing what in the business, who is making what decisions, how are each paid ....etc are outlined up front so there is no misunderstanding later.
I think there are 4 important aspects of a partnership - just like any team
1) An agreement that details everything, responsibilities, priorities goals and how to end it.
2) Communication plan - make sure you have a plan on how to work together, communicate and when. This falls away quickly and paths or priorities change.
3) Don't partner with someone that has the same skill sets. Partner with someone that has skills you don't. And accept that you will disagree with and challenge each other. Too often we look for someone we like to partner with. You need a variety of different skills to make a partnership or team work, and if everyone is similar then it doesn't work.
4) Values - Make sure your values align. If you don't have similar values then the goals take on different meaning and the culture of the arrangement will change over time. Values define culture as a business grows so plan ahead.
The answer depends upon whether you mean: 1) creating a business partnership or 2) partnering on projects. Others have pointed out the issues of #1: develop a solid understanding and put it in writing, including the dissolution language. I know many people who have been burned financially by "partners."
As for #2, this is a more limited relationship that could be a trial for #1. Partners should have complementary skill sets, so that one of you brings the other into an engagement to provide a fuller set of capabilities. Again, the engagement should be spelled out clearly. I was burned badly by someone I considered a trusted colleague -- and friend. (I am still dumbstruck by what he did. One of my only 2 LinkedIn connections I've severed.)
Beware of potential partners who say, "I think we have valuable skills that could be of value to your customers." They want access to your customer list. You can spend considerable time defining such relationships, and they will likely lead nowhere.
I know this sounds like I'm jaded. Just go in with eyes wide open.
IMHO the "must do" is an operating agreement. This will not only define role contributions but topics such as partner exit, how decisions are made, ownership, etc.
You can start with your local www.score.org chapter but ultimately you'll want to engage an attorney.
In my experience, the more difficult business separations were friends / family due primarily to an informal working arrangement
Both you and your Partner should have clear vision how to benefit from Partnership and remember the proverb It's better to lose with the clever partner than to gain with the stupid one.
I agree with Fred that the answer depends upon whether you mean a 1) business partnership 2) project partnership.
We had a great success with project partnership so far. The most important aspect was the complementary skills that we had. It also needs a clear definition of the role and the operating agreement.
I had a partnership that didn't work. The upfront time before going into business together is a very important time to outline your visions. They need to be in sync or at least compatible. You need to be in agreement as to how large of a company you want, employees or contractors, how the responsibilities are going to be divided and what roles each person is taking.
My business partner has been my wife, and it has worked very well. The main ingredients are respect, compentency, clear roles and responsibilities, and trust.
The experience of working with a partner/partners is relative and dependent on.
Working with partners can be a mixed bag. Good experiences can lead to prosperous relationships that go on for years; while bad ones can drive you crazy. It's important to know when to stay the course, and when it's time to cut a relationship off. My rule of thumb is to trust my gut instinct - and try to ensure that the positive outweighs the negative in any relationship.
Nancy hit the most important element, there must be a written agreement. The biggest question is why? Why a partnership? There must be a reason to share equity and decision making. Also realize that a process for dealing with disagreement must be solid. If you are fifty fifty then what happens in a tie, if one of you is the minority,then they are essentially an employee as the majority owned can terminate the partner (depending on whats in writing).
My wife and I have been business partners for nearly ten years, across three different businesses. There have been times when we have wanted to kill each other, many nights of sleeping on the couch, arguments, stress, etc. However, there have also been a lot of successes and wins. Ultimately, who you partner with is incredibly important. They do not have to be your friend or spouse, but you do need to be able to trust them. If there is no trust and faith in what they are doing and bringing to the table, then don't get involved.