Abbott and Costello, Buffett and Munger, Penn and Teller – these are but three examples of successful partnerships. A healthy, engaging partnership is a wonderful thing to be part of, and also exceedingly rare. Whether in business or romance people have a hard time making a partnership last.
I think the reason why is that people go looking for the wrong things, start to build a business or a relationship based on a false set of criteria, and then when reality starts to happen there is no supporting structure to support the anticipated end result.
Working with many entrepreneurs over the years, I have come across many of the same dynamics and unmet expectations as I find in couples who are facing a divorce or breakup – they both came together with unstated needs, wants and desires. Oftentimes we enter into a relationship far too soon, and with too many unknowns. If you don’t know your strengths, weaknesses and outright failings, chances are you won’t be able to see what is your potential partner’s strengths, weaknesses and outright failings.
This is why when I am working with a consulting client, I first put them through an inventory process to determine what their current status is, in relation to their business skills, and to get a baseline of what their emotional and analytical skills are. Once we’ve established what they are good at, what they need work on and what they simply will never do, we can then look to the potential partner and see where there is an opportunity for duplication, and more importantly for complementary skills and abilities.
I’m a big believer in the concept that two people who have the same skills, likes and dislikes are not a good match for a business partnership. It may work in romance – I know you’re supposed to like the same things, but also opposites attract is a common statement. Plus living with someone and building a life of tv watching, eating and spirituality, to say nothing of child rearing, is a wholly different process than building a business, establishing protocols for employees and clients, and meeting expectations of corporations.
In the business world, having a partner that is an opposite, who you may not even enjoy going to dinner with, could be the smart move. There is more than one comedy team that has hated each other, but they created comedy gold – take Fred and Ethel from I Love Lucy – Fred hated Ethel so much he refused to rehearse with her. On screen though, they were amazing as a team.
Building a business requires different skill sets. Knowing what you’re good at, and what you’re terrible it, is crucial to finding a partner who can help you build, and grow a company. It is highly recommended that to be the most empowered and successful you can be, you do an inventory of your likes, dislikes, skills and failings, be brutally honest and then go find a partner with the complementary skills, likes, dislikes and failings. And if you can’t get an exact match, which is the most likely thing, at least now you know the gaps you need to fill with employees.