The 5 Traits of a Great Business Partner

Starting a business with a partner in crime is still one of the most viable options for a startup. Most people choose to do it with either a spouse or a sibling. But who is the right spouse or sibling? There is an art and a science to being a great partner. For a business partnership to work, both parties need to be great partners. It is a skill in itself and one that is acquired through time, education and experience–much like anything else.

Is being a good partner to your business partner on your list of goals? If it isn’t, it most certainly should be. If you see your business partner as playing a support role–as in, someone to help you–then you’re better off hiring an assistant to help you with your tasks. It’s a whole different ballgame when two people come together to create and build something new. It’s not so much about equal and tit-for-tat contribution; be it financial or otherwise. It is about maintaining a balance between what is being received for what is being given.

If you’re thinking of starting a business with a special someone, then you have to know whether or not that someone is actually going to be special. And how will you know whether or not that person is special? Is it because of how amazing they are at their job? Probably not. They can have a talent, a myriad of skills and ample experience, but they may still not be a good–let alone, great–partner.

So what traits make someone a great partner? Well, it isn’t rocket science, but it definitely isn’t easy either. The crux of what makes for a good partnership is balance. If there is an imbalance of some sort, it is not impossible to fix–as long as you continue to embody and inculcate these five traits within yourself.

Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s get started.

1. Communicative Abilities

It is virtually impossible to have a good partnership with someone who has poor communication skills. This is not about being a good talker. Salespeople are good talkers. In a partnership, both parties should feel comfortable bringing up unpleasant and uncomfortable topics. This means that the ability to listen must first and foremost be there. But it doesn’t end there. Then you have to respond accordingly, instead of just reacting. You should never try to ‘win’ an argument, but instead try to reach a solution.

If someone is unable to hear the unpleasant truth, then it will be hard to have a fruitful relationship. It will be filled with conflict as duplicity begins to reign supreme. You will instead wind up in a situation where you’re constantly playing politics–where you’re talking right and walking left.

If you’re going to work with this person day in and day out–forget about keeping secrets, no matter how well-meaning you are about not wanting to hurt the other person. It’s better to always communicate cleanly and openly so that conflict is resolved sooner rather than later. I’ve met a lot of people who think that by being able to schmooze, that it’s all done.

In a long-term relationship, it simply doesn’t work that way. It takes time, effort and investment to tend to the garden of a partnership.

2. Balance

Forget fair. It is about balance. Fair is tit-for-tat thinking. I give you five dollars today and you give me five dollars back.

What are you two creating together? Is one person doing all the work and heavy lifting in a relationship while another person is a free rider?

Be honest with yourself. Is the other person able, willing and capable of being a good partner? It’s not the same as being good at what you do. It is about being considerate of each other based on your capabilities, needs and having the foresight to know that the two of you will need to be there for each other.

Sometimes, you do the heavy lifting and at other times, the other person will do the heavy lifting. It is not about individualism, but about communion. It is about understanding that you will need to lose a part of yourself to gain a role within a union.

Partnerships usually come with a contractual component as well. I usually recommend that people don’t get into partnerships at a young and tender age as you will go through a lot of changes in your 20s. Once your own individual identity is no longer a pressing priority, that’s when you know that you’re ready for a partnership.

3. Commitment

To many people, commitment is the opposite of freedom. When in actuality, commitment can offer you a lot more freedom. Why? Because once you commit to someone and a plan and course of action, you don’t need to do it all by yourself. You have someone there whom you can count on and rely on to share the burden. You also have someone there with whom you can share your joys and your achievements. After all, the two of you did it together.

It takes courage to make a commitment and stand by it, especially when there are so many other things you could be doing. In a partnership, you have to be jointly responsible for someone else’s decision-making. The key to a good partnership, then, is to make decisions together.

The blame game is not that difficult, but it doesn’t allow you to arrive at a solution. It doesn’t ease the conflict. Some people thrive off conflict and competition. Others avoid it. Either path won’t work if you want to be in a partnership. You will have to commit to a course of action together.

A commitment is a plan, a journey, but it is also a destination.

4. Bargaining

Have you ever seen old ladies haggle? They know how much everything is worth and they always try to get a good deal. You have to be a bit like the old lady in the market. What does that mean? You should always know what is going on out on the street. What value are you bringing to the relationship? What is your worth?

Oh, unpleasant question, isn’t it? Many people get into relationships to fill a void and a need that they have in their lives. They don’t do it to bring value or worth to another person’s life. How many people walk into a relationship and say, “Hey, this is the worth and value I bring.” It’s not about a dollar value as we’re thinking long-term. Stop and think. What is so special about you? I’m sure there is something! How can you bring this trait into your partnership?

A caveat: don’t be like the old ladies who ask for a big discount and try to rip off the vendor. He’ll probably turn her down, anyway. Vendors are street smart and street wise. It’s not a buyer’s market when it comes to relationships. It is the vendor’s–especially the one who has something valuable to give and knows how much it is worth.

5. Lakshmi

There’s a picture of Lakshmi on my wall and it’s taught me everything I’ve ever needed to know about relationships. She is the giver of wealth. She pours her abundance into any project that she’s working on. You have to think of yourself as a giver of wealth.

Look at the world around you, there is wealth everywhere you look. You are already wealthy, much like Lakshmi. If you start a relationship from a place of scarcity, then you are not a giver of wealth. You will always need and need and need more. Not Lakshmi. She gives and gives and gives more. She takes a rest when she needs to, but then she continues giving.

The word Lakshmi also has its roots in the Sanskrit word for goal. Which refers to giving it all to your shared goals. You have to give and not simply receive. You have to be a giver of wealth and you should always do this generously and in a balanced way.

In Conclusion

Partnerships are not easy, but neither is it rocket science. Not everyone can be a good partner. But if that’s a dream for you, then you will have to embody the five traits of a great partner–and then you have to find someone who can do the same; or let them find you.


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