Business partnerships can be a sticky business. If done right, I believe partnerships can be extremely beneficial and life-giving to all involved. If it’s not setup right, it can cause a heap of hardship and pain in the process with detrimental effects.
For the past 18 months, I’ve learned these things the hard way through a failed business partnership. We set out to Idaho, leaving everything behind, embarking on a joint partnership agreement with the intent of using our gifts to help establish a new corporation and cultivate a new ministry. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out the way we hoped it would. Yet, it has been a season of incredible growth which I now believe has provided an opportunity for me to share with you what I’ve learned and how to avoid the same mistakes. While this will relate directly to business partnerships, I believe many of the concepts can apply to other aspects of our life about how to develop healthy relationships with others.
1. Good paperwork makes good partners (and friendships).
It’s extremely important to start out with a good foundation. That foundation is established through clearly outlined agreements on paper, based on initial verbal agreements that were made. When this is postponed or isn’t clear from the start, this can create a host of confusion and become a painful process later on as you try to establish what you agreed to initially. Plain and simple: good paperwork makes good partners and ultimately good friendships with others. To not have this clearly established, in a timely manner, will create all sorts of issues for the future partnership.
2. Outline expectations of your roles.
Outlining clear expectations goes hand-in-hand with creating good paperwork. Having clear expectations about your role(s) in the partnership will help move the mission forward in a faster, more joyful manner, without frustration or confusion. If these are not made clear, it can make one or the other party in the partnership feel unimportant to the mission, or like the other party doesn’t want you involved. Which if that is the case, you don’t want to be in that kind of partnership in the first place. So…run!
3. Bring in an outside perspective sooner to help if there are disagreements.
When there are disagreements, and you try to resolve them peacefully between you and the other partners, without resolve, bring in the community of others–unbiased friends or your church pastors–to help resolve the disagreements sooner. If you just let things go, hoping things will eventually be resolved when you don’t have peace or clarity about the situation, it will only breed more frustration and more distrust as time goes on without resolve. Don’t be afraid to involve others. This is a BIG investment and BIG decision that requires open and honest communication, with resolve on any disputes, in a timely manner.
4. Communication is KEY!
When making a large investment toward a partnership, you MUST ensure constant communication is established so everyone feels heard (listens to each other’s ideas), everyone understands the ins and outs of the business (it can’t be one-sided), and as with any corporation or ministry, decisions must be done unanimously through the board or partners involved in the business. Again, a partnership is much different than a stand-alone business or a business you run by yourself. You don’t get to call all the shots unless it is agreed to by the board as a whole. And if there isn’t a board established, well that goes back to #1 and #2 about creating good paperwork and having proper expectations in place of how the business will run.
5. No matter what happens, walk it out with integrity.
At the end of the day, your inner peace and integrity in the matter are what’s most important. God has called us all to be men and women of integrity, which means doing the right thing morally, in a reliable way. Hold your tongue from slander and always think the best of others. You can only control your own actions and reactions to things. If you need to, vent privately with close friends behind closed doors. Publicly, walk it out in an honorable way to the best of your ability, always praying for God to keep soft, open hearts in the process.
Final thought, don’t ever give up praying for a healthy outcome and praying for one another through the mission God has called you to. And when things get messy, keep praying! God calls us to pray, even for those that are hard to love or those that disagree with us, even those that hate us. Praying will help keep your own heart pure in the process of disagreements and unjust actions that may come against you. Prayer will unify your hearts if you are all involved in coming together through prayer. With other partnerships I’ve established over the years, I have seen first hand how the power of coming together regularly in prayer can overcome some of the most extreme challenges through partnerships. Even in my own marriage, it’s amazing how praying together with my spouse during heated moments helps dissipate the anger and frustration, allowing a logical and grace-filled response promoting healing in the process.
There are many beautiful and unexpected gifts I’ve received in the process of this failed partnership. In fact, it’s brought two more potential partnerships to the surface with people we’ve grown to love and trust, that I never would have met and established a connection with if it wasn’t for the initial dissolved partnership! And so, as with many things, I see the silver-lining and can’t wait to see what God has in store for us next.