Sis, being in a business partnership is a lot like being a part of a marriage. You don’t want to just marry anyone, and similarly, you want your business soul mate. It’s serious business! Here are 7 questions for Black female entrepreneurs to explore before you sign on your side of the dotted line.
Do you share the same vision and values for the business? When my sister and I opened our nail salon, she wanted a small nail salon where she could service her full clientele. I wanted a franchised spa expansion for the Goddesses. The partnership split eventually. We just wanted different outcomes. Luckily, for us, we’ve got a great relationship today. Make sure you and your potential partner both want the same end vision. Also ensure that your values are the same. If you have different values, you may both try to drive the business in different directions.
Do you share the same work ethic and drive? Life will be more harmonious if you both agreed on the amount of time and energy required for success, and if you were both just as hungry for success. Check out your potential business partner’s work hours, and the amount of work they can get done in any given week. Explore how far they will go to reach goals and milestones. Ensure that you both agree on things like ideal pace of work, adherence to deadlines, and quality. Both partners can end up stressed and miserable if you’re not living up to the other’s expectations.
Do you complement each other skill-wise? It isn’t of great benefit to partner with someone who has the same strengths and skill sets that you do, and the same growth areas as you do. Ideally, you and your partner would be able to divide responsibility and oversight of your business’s main areas: strategic planning, marketing, finance, legal, product development, customer service, employee management, and operations. Agree on a detailed and clear position description that gives a fair share of executive-level work to each partner. This will avoid the kind of imbalance that breeds resentment and burnout from one partner. When both partners bring their share of expertise, you can learn from each other, it reduces the amount of work you’ll have to outsource or hire experts on, and ultimately saves money.
Do you communicate easily and effectively? Communication in any relationship is work. In a business relationship, ensure that you both can work through problems, plan and ideate effectively. It shouldn’t be draining just to figure out this month’s focus or the next product launch. So if every conversation is confusing, tense, or ends without direction or results, you’ve got a long road ahead…or worse yet, a failed business.
Can your business partner hold down his or her side of the work? If you have to do everything, micro-manage, or redo your partner’s work, you don’t really have a partner — you have an employee. Furthermore, unless you have a silent partner, you want a partner who takes on half the leadership burden. Remember, partnership is about teamwork. It’s ok to carry a larger load when times get rough for one partner, but this shouldn’t be the norm.
Will your potential partner answer these questions with the same answer? Use these questions to have discussions with your potential partner. If you are on the same page about the questions above, you might just have found your business soulmate!
Quick tips: Finally, here are some important steps to take. Have a legal partnership agreement drafted. Write clear position descriptions. Revisit the agreements regularly. Complete personality assessment work. It will help you better understand your partners style of management and communication. I have completed Strengthfinders and Myers-Briggs in the past. Consider hiring a business coach. Be sure to spend some time working on a project together before you commit to a long-term business partnership.
Good luck on your search for partnership!
Makisha Boothe is business coach and founder of Sistahpreneurs. She specializes in rapid improvement and innovation, and helps women with business startup and design.
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