When I worked in the non-profit sector, I had a reputation for bringing people together to collaborate on a project. Agencies didn’t always do so willingly, sometimes there was resistence – mainly because of territorial issues, but bottom line, we were able to find a common ground that made it work. Usually it was because of the clients, and we would pool our resources to better the outcome for them.
I can’t say I have had the same level of success since starting my own business. People are suspicious – always wanting to know what’s in it for them, and questioning why you would want to partner. Were you going to get more out of it? And when I have partnered, it hasn’t always worked out the way I expected.
When I reflect back on my non-profit days, I realize that apart from wanting the best for our clients, the other common factor we shared was our values. We tended to be working in the non-profit sector because we wanted to make a difference. Earning lots of money was never a draw, which is just as well as the salaries were low.
So when I look at the partnerships that haven’t worked, I can see now that part of the reason why, is we didn’t share the same values. We hadn’t taken the time to really get to know one another – to share our values, to discuss our vision of the intended outcome or to agree on goals. If one of you wants to make thousands and the other is happy with a lot less, then problems are bound to arise.
Also when you’re an entrepreneur, one of the reasons you’ve chosen that path is because you want to be in control of your own destiny, so it is not surprising that there are control issues when there are two captains steering the ship, and even more so when there is no real agreement on the end destination!
I’ve written my share of articles on partnerships, and have often joked that I really should read and heed my own advice! Does that mean that I am off partnerships? No. I see real merit in collaboration, in working with like-minded individuals who share a common audience or goal. It actually makes business sense.
But I am more cautious and less likely to get carried away by the excitement of a new idea, a new project. Now I would recommend dating before leaping into a serious business partnership with someone. Work on a mutually beneficial project first, see how it goes and then build on the relationship.