The Dos and Don'ts of Business Partnerships

Teamwork makes the dream work. Or, so they say. But when it comes to business, are partnerships a must on the road map to success… or a surefire path to hell? Today, I’m sharing the dos and don'ts of successful business partnerships…

I can describe what it's like to have a business partner in one word: challenging.

But, here’s the thing...all the best accomplishments in life are challenging. Raising children is challenging, maintaining a marriage is challenging, running a marathon… also challenging. All of the things that bring us extraordinary pride and joy are, without a doubt, extraordinarily challenging.

So, yes, having a business partner is challenging. Thankfully, the rewards outweigh the repercussions.

DO: Equal partners

 At Oak Street Social, my business partner and I are 50/50 partners. To say that I was warned by many people, prior to launching OSS, not to enter into a 50/50 partnership would be a massive understatement.

However, I did what I often do when faced with tough decisions… I make my own!

I based my decision on how I would want to be treated. For example, I couldn't imagine asking my partner to take less than 50% of the business because that's not something I would want for myself.

And so, we embarked on a 50/50 partnership; this means that we both have equal say in matters of significance for our business. That also means that we are equally vested, and equally passionate, about the success of our company. It was a good choice. 

Don’t: Partner with someone you’ve never worked with!

Both times that I have entered a business partnership it was with someone I had a work relationship with previously. This is imperative.  

No matter how much you love your best friend, your sister, or your cousin Larry, entering into a business partnership with someone with whom you’ve never worked is treacherous territory.

Only partner with someone who you have worked with previously in some substantial capacity. If you haven't worked with this person, the simple fix is this: pursue a working relationship with them before you sign any partnership paperwork.

DO: Find the Yin to your Yang

My business partner and I have had heated disagreements about many things, but one thing we both wholeheartedly agree on is that we are the Yin to each other’s Yang.

She is strong where I am weak, and vice-versa. Of course, because our strengths and styles are so different, we have to work extra hard at looking at things from the other’s perspective.

Sometimes that's tough. However, the vast benefits of having a business partner who complements you make up for the extra work occasionally needed to find common ground. 


DO: Have goals

Start by setting goals for the company and then create goals for each partner. Clearly, individual goals will support company goals.

Put goals in writing, measure them and discuss them. The way, both partners have realistic expectations about what the other partner is committing to contributing to the company.

DO: Communicate regularly

Regular communication seems so utterly obvious... but it's not.

You're running your business, so you're sure to speak to the other person, but if you've picked a partner whose skill-set complements yours, it's very likely the both of you are handling different aspects of the business. This means, you're not necessarily connecting as often as one might think.

It's essential to pick a regular, recurring time to communicate with your business partner.

My partner and I have a weekly 30-minute conference call. It's brief and incredibly efficient.

During our weekly call, which we’ve coined our “Getting Sh*T Done” call,  we cover off on any important items for the week. Which isn't to say that we don't pick up the phone to talk through ideas or issues during the work week as they happen, but that's separate from the dedicated time that we spend each week discussing important company initiatives.

Don’t: Cross the white line

If you can't stay in your lane, prepare to wreck!  

I am huge on efficiency, so one of my pet peeves is having multiple people do the same task. I also don't believe in running a business as a democracy, which means we don't have to get everyone's opinion or take a vote on everything that we do.

My business partner has autonomy and authority on the tasks that she handles and I have the same on the tasks that I handle.

If we run into an issue and we need advice, it's not uncommon for us to call the other up and ask for input. But we try to run our business in such a way that we are not both working on the same tasks. Obviously, given that we have complementary skill sets, this makes perfect sense and is ideally efficient for the business.


DO: Embrace different work styles

This is so important! My business partner is the type of person who clears her inbox every day. She's incredibly responsive; I always say, if you want something done, have Johanna do it!

I, on the other hand, tend to take longer to get things accomplished. I'm a creative, big-picture person who is motivated by deadlines. Until there’s a deadline looming, I still have time to tinker.

Johanna can't expect me to work like she works and I can't expect her to work like I work.

Sometimes she gets something quickly off of her plate that I want to put more time into. And, sometimes I take too long to answer something that she wants to check off her list.

We have to be respectful of each other and find a place where neither is right or wrong.

Don’t: Tell your business partner when you’re going to publish her answers to your texts

I asked my business partner what she would say were the the best/easiest and hardest things  about having a business partner. Of course I didn’t tell her I was going to share her answers, because what fun would that be?

Here’s what she wrote…


The hardest thing for me is arguments. We love our business and we sometimes get heated when we disagree. I am terrible with confrontation. It is a testament to my trust in my business partner that she is one of the few people on this earth that I feel comfortable speaking very frankly to. (I’m sure she’s thrilled about that!) 

Easiest/best thing without a doubt is having someone else you can count on 100%. Someone that you know has your back wholly and completely. Being an entrepreneur can be tough — physically and mentally — the challenges we face together change us for the better.

Are you considering a business partnership? Or, struggling with an existing partnership? Need advice? Let’s talk! Share your thoughts in the comments below!