A couple of months ago my husband was in discussion with some business associates who wanted to form a joint venture construction company. Since just about everyone I have ever met in business has told me to run screaming from partnerships, I was quite leery of the whole idea.
So in addition to asking a lot of questions, I sent a Twitter message to my buddies and asked what advice they had regarding partnerships. The overwhelming response was:
Do your research and "date before marriage!"
One of the strongest voices was my buddy Jonathan Fields, who offered some really concrete advice.
The topic must have been rolling around in his head since today he wrote a great post titled "11 Ways to Avoid Entrepreneurial Divorce Court." His recommendations include:
- Talk about relative strengths, experiences, skills and weaknesses.
Take the time to get a really solid feel for who’s bring what, in terms
of operating capability, to the table. Move beyond words and explore
- Define broader lifestyle visions and core values – You
may be on the same page when it comes to the business, but to the
extent possible, you also want to either be on the same page or be able
to foster genuine respect for each person’s outlook on the role of the
venture in their bigger lives and the value they expect to run both the
business and their lives by.
- Share venture specific vision, long-term goals/desired exits – Have
each person write a detailed concrete description of the long and
intermediate term visions for the company and, if appropriate, the
desired exit strategies. Do this on paper and DO NOT DISCUSS them until
they’ve been committed to paper. Then print them out and swap papers.
Doing it this way will keep each person’s vision their own, rather than
pressuring one or both people to relent to the perception of the other
person’s public, maybe more strongly argued position. From these
positions, now the real discussion can begin.
- Check out resumes, references, online reputation and interests – As much you value your gut instinct, be smart and do your due diligence. You cannot imagine the surprises you’ll find.
It is a great read and really good advice – read the rest here. I also wrote a post about partnering a couple of years ago that compliments what Jonathan said – The delicate art of business partnering.
I am happy to report that after we did most of what Jonathan recommended, my husband did move ahead with the partnership (called Red Road Construction, which will focus mostly on infrastructure projects on local Native American reservations) and have had great early success. His partners have skill sets and expertise that truly compliment my husband’s, and their work ethic and values are very much in harmony with his. We are very optimistic about our future, and excited to have found a great way to serve an exceptionally tight market.
So if you have some attractive opportunities come your way with new partners, be cautious but open-minded. If I had followed all of my own fears, I probably would have nixed the whole idea of a joint venture and lost out on great learning and financial opportunities.