8 EO members share lessons from their best and worst business partnerships

Contributed by Kym Huynh, an EO Melbourne member, EO Global Communications Committee member, and co-founder of WeTeachMe. Kym is fascinated by entrepreneurs and their journeys, so he asked EO members from various chapters to share their experiences. Read his earlier posts on what EO members wish non-entrepreneurs knew about entrepreneurs and how EO members define success and the impact of core values.

Choose partners with opposite skill sets

The best business partnership for me occurred when partnering with people who had completely opposite skill sets.

I previously owned a construction company. My partner focused on construction, margins, operations and managing suppliers whereas I focused on strategy, business development, HR and finance. It worked so well. I’ll never partner with someone who has a similar set of skills to me.

— Ron Lovett, EO Atlantic Canada, founder of Connolly Owens

Depth has benefits over breadth

The most powerful gift my business partnership gave me was the experience of depth rather than breadth.

Because I had someone who both relied on me and gave me much, I did not have the option to jump ship whenever I wanted a new experience.

This partnership taught me that one gains the most out of life when one goes deep. Some of my learnings from this—resilience and how to live a life of meaning—are priceless.

—Tui Cordemans, EO Melbourne, founder of Koh Living

There is no blame. Only learning.

Nick Bell and I have been business partners for 10 years, and friends for much longer. The key to our success is that our friendship is stronger than our business partnership.

We’ve had disagreements, but:

  1. We are prepared to not let ego drive our decisions
  2. We are prepared to let the other take the lead; and
  3. If one of us is wrong or fails, we consider it part of the journey.

There is no blame, only learning.

There will always be ups and downs. To know that you are working with someone who “has your back” strengthens and bolsters you, makes you brave, and makes it easier to overcome the inevitable challenges. Business is like a sport, and a champion team will always beat a team of champions.

The worst business partnership I have witnessed occurred when greed, ego and jealousy overshadowed the goal of creating a great business where both partners are successful. The result? One business partner walked away because they decided the negativity in their life wasn’t worth a few million dollars.

— Alex Louey, EO Melbourne and founder of Appscore

Walking away was the best thing I ever did

A few years ago, I went against my gut feeling and agreed to a new joint partnership with a person I’d had a negative experience with. On paper, it was a match made in heaven and an easy way into companies from both a commercial and positioning point-of-view.

This joint partnership, and what was sold to me, did not match reality. So when I was presented with an opportunity to walk away, I did! And it was the best thing I ever did.

When your gut tells you to walk away, do it—no matter how attractive the situation or how many people tell you otherwise.

— Andrea Grisdale, EO Italy, founder and CEO at IC Bellagio 

The best partners help one another succeed

Partnerships are like marriages; they start with the best intentions, but after time the spark can wear off. That’s when things start to break down. Like a good marriage, partnerships require work from both sides.

Whenever I have experienced a partnership break down, it was due to one side always asking and taking without giving. Over time you start to feel used, and then you despise the relationship.

The best partnerships are where both parties spend the time to help one another succeed. It takes work and takes time, but like all great long-lasting partnerships, it can be worth it.

— David Fastuca, EO Melbourne, founder of Locomote

Partnership must start with aligned values.

The success, or failure, of business partnerships starts and ends with values.

When there is an alignment of values, there is a strong foundation of trust and respect, an environment with ample opportunity for building deeper bonds, and as a result, a resilience for weathering the inevitable storms that will come.

When I assess potential business partnerships, I ask myself:

  • Do my potential business partner and I view the world through the same lens?
  • Do my potential business partner and I live and experience life by the same rules?
  • Are our methods and decision-making guided by a similar set of values?
  • Do my potential business partner and I live and breathe a similar set of values?
  • What are the differences between my values and those of my potential business partner? Can these differences peacefully coexist?
  • What are the things I admire and don’t admire about my potential business partner? If I dig deeper, what values do they hint at or uncover? Are the differences cogent with my values?

Building a business requires a tremendous amount of time and energy. Shared values are critical, and form the foundation of what one builds. If I am to make the decision to spend a tremendous amount of time and energy, to ensure that they do not go to waste, I’ll make sure to get the foundations (values) right first and foremost.

— Kym Huynh, EO Melbourne, founder of WeTeachMe

Plan as though it will fail — odds are you will be right

Many business partnerships are formed because your partner is your friend. Being a friend at 21, prior to family and kids, the odds are against the partnership surviving.

If you both have the same skills, what have you achieved? You just have two payrolls to cover rather than one.

What you dream of when you are 21 is completely different than when you are 30 and have obligations such as a lifelong partner or children.

I am personally against business partnerships, at any age. It just becomes another hurdle, and you are always compromising, otherwise, you end up with resentment and as enemies.

If you must get into a business partnership, the most important clause is the “exit” clause. Plan as though it will fail, as the odds are you will be right.

— Tony Falkenstein, EO New Zealand, founder and CEO of Just Life Group and CEO of Just Water

Find the silver lining

I inherited a nightmare of a business partner, which inspired me to start my new business.

I learned that there is a silver lining in every cloud. I now thank them for what I have today (although they don’t know it), and that, due to circumstance, I embarked on what I am truly passionate about.

See the silver lining or the positive; it allows us to forgive and to not feel victimized.

— Ai-Ling Wong, EO Malaysia and founder of The Decorateur

Categories: Entrepreneurial Journey Lessons Learned Partnerships WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS


Comments are closed.