Columnists, V7I2

Making Partnerships Work

(Photo courtesy of Tea Oebel from Pexels)

In 2009, coming out of the darkest year of my life, I was presented with the opportunity of a lifetime—and quite by accident.

I had been hauling sheds for a while when suddenly I had an offer to start my own dealership.

I needed $50,000 and my own hauling rig to make it work. Instead, I had zero cash, was hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, and had no credit. Zilch.

Desperate for some help, I went to the only place I knew—the two guys I was hauling for. They were partners in a partnership they both hated. I knew that. They knew that. And they knew that I knew. But I still approached them. Yep, I asked them to partner up with me. Begged them. To no avail. (Thank God!)

So, I fought my way through it. All by myself. Or so I’d like to say.

I didn’t fight my way through it all, by myself, at all. And this is where I became the villain in my own story. (Interesting side note: I just heard that we will villainize someone worse than they really are in our personal stories. That wasn’t the case here.)

I talked one of my best friends into becoming my partner. “We” were going to build this together. Both of us, working hard, would miraculously pull this off. Only problem? He didn’t have any money, either. It didn’t work out, but we learn a lot from failures.

There are a couple of small details that I want to talk about. Things you need to make a partnership work. Things I learned the hard way.

Have a written agreement. We never sat down and wrote one out. It was all verbal. He heard what he wanted to hear, and I heard what I wanted to hear—and we went to work. Worked our butts off, but I worked twice as much as he did. (I’m pretty sure he’d say the opposite.) Work ethic wasn’t the problem. Without a written agreement, we weren’t on the same page.

Then there’s communication. We were so busy trying to hold up all the glass walls that we forgot about each other.  Both of us are wide-open type guys. Both of us assumed the other was doing okay and never stopped to ask. He had his side hustle, and I had mine. We were doing great. Separately. On the surface.

With zero in writing and no communication, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what happens next. Trust deteriorates. Disappears. Gone. That is the complete opposite of what should be happening. Trust should be built. Daily. Weekly. Constantly. We lost all of ours. Both ways.

When you lose trust, you lose confidence. You open the floodgates for disaster. Assumptions. Accusations. Dishonesty. Backstabbing. Rumors. You name it. It all comes apart.

The villainizing crops up. The other person is at fault—it can’t be you, right? Well … Don’t even think about partnerships if you can’t get on board with humbleness. And I’m not talking about the fake religious premise bull that a lot of folks will spread on you. I’m talking about actually being humble. Admitting mistakes. Owning up when you screw up.

I suck at it. I hate being wrong, especially when someone else is right. But without true humbleness, you’re going to sink in a partnership. The flipside of humbleness is forgiveness. One side admits to a mistake; the other side forgives. Partnerships are like marriages. Or is it the other way around? Marriages are partnerships. Without grace and forgiveness, it’s going to be a long, hard road. And since we’re already referencing marriage …

Love. You better figure this one out. It’s the motivator and common denominator of all relationships. Start with loving God. Then yourself. Then others, like your family for starters. Friends. Coworkers. On and on. Love is the motivator and secret to everything.

Look at an 8. It’s the perfect symbol. It never ends. You should love like an 8. It’s impossible to not forgive someone when you love them. So, don’t let your love wear out. Persevere. Succeed.

My one and only partnership deteriorated exponentially by lacking all of the components I’ve mentioned. But my friendship was saved through love. It wasn’t easy for either of us, but our love for God, family, friends, and each other put us back together again. Yeah, we had to talk. Had to repent. Had to forgive. At the end of the day, it was worth it.

There is plenty of other stuff we could write about. We could write a book on partnerships but the four corners will never change: Communication, communication, communication, communication. 

And, as cheesy as it sounds, love. In all of it. Easy, right? Or not.

The risk in partnerships is huge. The numbers are stacked against you. I can easily name 50-100 partnerships I personally know didn’t last. Currently, I know of four that are working.  If the risk is too much, what do you do instead of partnerships? On your own? You be patient. You dig deeper. You hire the right people.

Alternatively, just work for the guy. If he’s good enough to partner with, he’s good enough to work for. Much less complicated.

What makes me an authority on partnerships, you ask? Absolutely nothing. Except I know how to not do it. And I have watched some of my best friends do it the right way. Some through lots of grief. Some through their own spectacular ways. All with a lot of love.

And those two guys I went to ask in the first place? They are still together in a partnership they both love.

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