Cultivating the right personal qualities can go a long way toward making business partnerships stand the test of time.
It took Larry Page and Sergey Brin to make Google. Apple was the fruit of the combined talents of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. In fact, wherever you look – from a Hewlett-Packard laptop, to a McDonald’s restaurant or a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, you are seeing how partnerships can equal success. Fruitful partnerships happen in business all the time, but whether it’s two people, two businesses or even two teams, partnering for growth demands individuals of certain types with the soft and hard skills to deliver long-term success.
Trait 1: Self-awareness
The maxim ‘know thyself’ applies as much to the task of engineering a profitable business partnership as it does to philosophy. Thriving partnerships need individuals who know exactly what makes them tick, because a deep self-knowledge of strengths, weaknesses and values allows leaders to inspire and engage the partners they need to succeed. Likewise, businesses have in-built values and a cultural DNA that help inform their vision and heighten engagement and success. Knowing these traits helps wise leaders identify and form partnerships that align with core values, allowing businesses to thrive.
Trait 2: Vision
Partnerships are forged for many reasons, but it takes individuals with vision to see the opportunities and plot how they might grow and evolve in a market that is changing faster than ever before. Whether a partnership is designed around an injection of capital, the need to bring in extra know-how or for a boost to a product or service’s distribution, revenue or brand, it works best when visionary individuals see the endgame, both through calculated, analytical assessment of the business case as well as an old-fashioned gut feeling.
Trait 3: Pragmatism
Enduring partnerships need the right foundations for long-term success, and pragmatic individuals know that clear agreements and documented processes can act as steadying forces through the inevitable highs and lows of any partnership lifecycle. A written partnership agreement is the best way to outline each business partner’s responsibilities in any new venture, while a business plan can set the goals parties can agree on, strive toward and measure themselves against. Partners need to know details, like how profits will be distributed, how disputes will be solved or what exit strategy one or both partners might take. Being pragmatic in partnering not only builds the structure necessary for growth, but safeguards success.
Trait 4: Communication
Partnering is an art form that lives or dies by the ability to communicate. By leveraging the trust and understanding that comes with frequent and effective communication – ideally face to face, rather than mediated – partnerships can turn into fertile bonds, which are able to maximize their combined capabilities to propel businesses forward faster than the competition. Effective communicators within partnerships employ non-adversarial negotiation techniques, are non-judgmental, actively listen to feedback and are able to be open and honest if a conflict or disagreement needs to be resolved. Communicators are also able to harness the power of teams through facilitation skills that get the best from any collaboration.
Future traits: The connector and creator
The future will be the domain of those who can connect different people when needed to create change in a rapidly evolving market and, as a result, will reward those with the ability to source and form original partnerships with business growth. Partnerships of the future will need to form quickly and flexibly across traditional boundaries, assembling the best possible expertise to solve problems and create new solutions. It will require individuals willing to let go of some control in favor of partnering, those who will take risks to achieve the reward of growth. In the future, shaking hands with the right partner could just change the world.