Here are 12 good reasons for entering into a partnership. Many of these were true for me; see if any of them speak to you.
1. Two heads are better than one (mostly).
The Coen Brothers. Frank and Orville Wright. Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett. Larry and Sergey. Rocky and Bullwinkle—well maybe not them. But in most cases, having a great partner can multiply the amount of ideas, intelligence, background, and experience your business can draw upon. We all need a good wingman or -woman.
2. You can double your resources and your ability to reach customers.
This was us. When I was running my business plan/RFP business, I was continually contracting with local design companies to help create with the visual elements of branding. My partner had worked as a graphic designer at one such firm, and when that company lost its creative director he started up his own solo design service. I kept giving him design work, and eventually the penny dropped: why didn’t we just combine forces and start our own branding business? He could supervise all the design work, and I would be the marketing and client outreach person. He had graphics skills; I had business, sales, writing and branding acumen, plus a killer Rolodex. (Yes, it was still the Rolodex days, although electronic databases soon took over.) Together we could offer a much wider range of services to a much larger number of clients. Bringing in a partner can give you access to a much richer pool of financial resources and business networks. And because there are two of you, there’s someone else to hit the pavements and look for business, cultivate clients, network and ultimately serve your customers.
3. Your partner has strengths that you lack, and vice versa.
Batman and Robin, the Fantastic Four, the Avengers—even superheroes band together to compensate for each other’s weaknesses so that individually they can focus on using their strengths. That’s what great partners do. As collaborators Rodd Wagner and Gale Muller write in Power of 2, “Your strengths are stronger and your weaknesses weaker than you realize. You need help. You are also precisely the help someone else needs.”
4. There’s someone else to rely on when it comes to bringing home the bacon.
After my partner and I went into business together, we could take on a lot more projects than before. In next to no time, our business exploded. Most partners will tell you that having someone else to help shoulder the workload or just take responsibility for different parts of the business can increase your company’s income potential dramatically.
5. It promotes greater creativity and can spur innovation.
It’s hard to brainstorm alone. Most people’s creative juices flow more freely if they can bounce ideas off others. And things get really interesting when you have partners who bring their own ideas and perspectives to the party—that’s often when the biggest leaps of innovation occur. I know I’m far more creative in the kind of “give and take” atmosphere that my business had at its best.
6. It serves as a model for employees and fosters collaboration.
The old top-down business model is dead. I’ve been to the funeral. Nowadays smart businesses are looking to “partner” with employees and other people at all levels to hear their ideas, get their input and even empower them to make decisions that in the past might have been run up the corporate ladder. And partnerships at the top of the business can serve as collaborative models for the rest of the company. This is a benefit that can swing both ways, however. If the partners are great collaborators, employees will model them; if there’s trouble in paradise, employees will model that, too.
7. A partner’s perspective can help you break free of your old way of doing things.
Brothers Sam, Harry, Albert, and Jack Warner founded the Warner Bros. movie studios in 1918. When Sam Warner proposed the radical idea of synchronizing sound with their movies, brother Harry opposed the idea, saying, “Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?” But Sam persevered and in 1927, Warner Bros. made film history with The Jazz Singer, the first “talking picture.” Sam’s perspective on the possibilities of sound in film liberated an entire industry from its old ways and put Warner Bros. back in the black and back on the map. Sometimes it takes another person’s perspective to shake a successful business out of complacency and see an old business in a new way.
8. Partners can help you take greater risks.
A good partner can challenge you to take the kinds of risk that will help your business grow. When things were going right in my partnership, we were able to take on projects that were way outside our respective comfort zones. We felt safe enough to say, “Sure, we can do that,” when we didn’t have a clue how to actually do it. That was one of my favorite parts of our partnership. I knew we could master just about anything together. It was so much fun!
Partners also can encourage each other to be more daring simply because each partner figures the other will be there to pick up the pieces if the risk doesn’t pan out. When Sir Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay set out to climb Mt. Everest in 1953, relied on the other for keeping both of them safe despite the massive risks of climbing the world’s tallest mountain. At one point, Hilary broke through soft snow and slid into a crevasse. But because he and Tenzing were roped together, Tenzing was able to stop Hilary’s fall and pull him to safety. Great partners help you attempt big things and pull you out when things go wrong.
9. Partners also can serve as a restraint in keeping you from risking too much.
One of the reasons Warren Buffett has partnered with Charlie Munger for almost 50 years is the fact that Charlie says no to most investment opportunities that come their way. “When I call Charlie with an idea,” says Buffet, “he has three reactions. One is,‘Warren, that’s a dumb idea.’ Then, we put one hundred percent of our net worth into the idea. If it’s ‘Warren, that’s one of the dumbest ideas I’ve ever heard,’ we put half of our net worth into the idea. And if it’s ‘You’ve gone out of your mind, and I’m going to have you committed,’ then we pass.” Warren is an incredible enthusiast; Charlie is the bath of cold water that stops Warren from doing something stupid with Berkshire Hathaway’s money. A good partner will tell you when an idea is full of crap and keep you from taking on too much risk.
10. Working together for a common goal is a lot more fun than working alone.
In the same way that great sex is a lot more fun with a partner, business is a lot more fun when you can share it with someone else. When my partnership was good, every day at work was so much fun I actually hated having to go home. So we didn’t! Instead, we took the whole team to dinner. There’s something exciting and exhilarating in facing challenges together, and if you’re blessed with a partner with a sense of humor that meshes with yours (and I was), work becomes like play.
11. Try playing good cop/bad cop when it’s just you.
Managing clients and employees is exhausting. On the days when you just need a break, your partner is there to pick up the slack. Or if you have a difficult client on the phone and you’re not in the frame of mind to reason rather than react, your partner can take over. Our synergy was good in this area. When I was overwhelmed, I could always count on my partner to listen with an unfathomable amount of patience. Sometimes you need to punt to win.
12. It sucks to cry or celebrate alone.
Think about getting the big contract or hearing that your loan has been called, with no one else there. Somehow jumping around screaming with happiness by yourself isn’t nearly as great as jumping with a partner. Conversely, when the sh*t hits the fan, there’s nothing like having a shoulder available when you need it, and providing one when they do. Having someone to share the highs and lows of business makes both better.