If there was one thing I disliked about university, it would have to be working on a group project.
Somehow there was always a tardy member and eventually one or two students ended up carrying the burden. That might have been the case when working on some projects and perhaps the reason for that is that at times I did not choose my team members.
However, in other cases – especially when it comes to business – partners are vital and they could help us to succeed.
Just as we seek partners in our personal lives, we sometimes also have to look for partners who will help us to start and grow our business. Depending on the business and its size, a partner can drastically affect how a business is run.
The right partner can assist in escalating the growth of the business, and shoulder a large chunk of the workload. Conversely, a wrong partner can bring down a business. There are several reasons why entrepreneurs decide to collaborate with others: a need to share the workload and the financial costs, or simply believing that two heads are better than one when it comes to making decisions and producing products.
These are all good reasons, and it is important not to get into a partnership because someone begged you to, or because you are afraid to hurt their feelings if you decide to go solo.
Many people pick the latter reasons, thinking that they are doing the right thing, only to end up in legal disputes and shutting down a business that had great potential if the right choices were made from the start.
Finding the right partner is not easy, and it is often compared to finding a spouse. It could take weeks or even years in some cases. However, there are certain things potential partners need to consider and agree on should they decide to join hands.
• First, having common business goals and objectives. It is very important that partners share the same vision and goals for their business. If one partner aims for a national expansion, and the other an international one, then that clash in vision and perspectives could destroy a business at an early stage. Likewise, personal values and visions such as opting for sustainable products or donating a certain percentage of the profits to a charity could also lead to disputes if the partners are not on the same page.
• Second, trust. Like any relationships, mutual trust between partners is an important foundation.
A partnership that is based on trust and respect will guarantee that the partners will support and guide each other should anything go wrong.
• Third, recognising each other’s strengths and weaknesses. No one is great at everything, but that is the beauty of having a partner – because they will complement each other. As such, it is crucial that partners tell each other their strengths and weaknesses.
The more diverse the talents and skills that each brings to the business, the easier it will be to establish and develop it.
• Four, agree on the level of commitment. This is a key aspect that cannot be ignored.
For instance, some partners want to invest money and offer financial support to a business but they do not want to be involved in the daily management and operational tasks. Instead, they are happy to receive a certain percentage of the profits at the end of the year.
From the start, partners need to discuss this thoroughly and agree on the level of commitment that each member will have for the business. That’s so that the burden of managing the business does not fall solely on one person.
Last, but not least, agree on one another’s expectations.
Business partners need to be transparent about what each person expects from the other and from the business. There is no room for compliments and sweet talk. Honesty is key here, as a lot will be at stake.
Finding a business partner is not a stroll in a park. It is a vital decision that when made wrongly, could devastate what could have been a great business.
Nonetheless, patience, honesty and careful considerations would do the trick, and pave the way for making the right decisions.
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer and fashion designer. Follow her on Twitter: @manar_alhinai