In the late 90’s a bright, ambitious financial writer managed to strike a deal with a successful publisher. As part of the deal, this young writer received financial backing, mentorship and a stake in the new fledgling publishing company they created. In exchange, he would be the driver of the business. The partners would support him, but even at the start, everyone knew that success or failure rested most firmly on the shoulders of the writer-turned-entrepreneur.
More than a decade later both the partnership and the partners have flourished beyond anyone’s best hope. The partnership has become a 9 figure/year business and the undeniable leader in its industry. There’s no way the business could have achieved such rare success if the partnership hadn’t been in a position to thrive along the way.
This profitable partnership shares the same qualities of other great partnerships I’ve witnessed, including:
1. Everyone understands ‘the deal’. “I’m responsible for X, you’re responsible for Y and we’re going to share in the upside and downside 50/50 (or whatever).”
2. Everyone is an honest broker. There can be no conflicts of interest.
3. There is genuine respect and admiration all around. You might get into spats from time to time, but the shared interest and mutual respect ultimately win the day.
All this is pretty basic, but here’s the important part….
The business will evolve as will the lives and relationships of the partners. Ultimately the evolution can make ‘the deal’ unfair for one or more of the partners. Unfairness sows the seeds of the most destructive force in any relationship… resentment. Resentment has the ability to take down your business in a way that no competitor or economic threat ever could.
“A deal is a deal” – is Bunk.
Relationships are not about contract enforcement. They are about making sure that all parties have an environment where they can flourish individually and in pursuit of the shared goals. As things evolve, “the deal” will need to evolve with it.
We’re not talking about the day to day workload or temporary shifts in contribution to shared goals. Focusing on that type of ‘fairness’ is petty and deeply counterproductive. We’re talking long term, fundamental changes that virtually ensure ‘the deal’ would be unfair as far into the future as one could imagine.
If you want a partnership to succeed over the long term, it’s up to you to always be mindful of the fairness for both you and your partners.