A strong business relationship isn’t just about working well together; it’s also about understanding each other’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as being able to trust that the other person will get the job done and look out for your best interests. These 10 tips can help you build a good relationship with your business partner, no matter what type of project you’re working on together or how much experience you have.
Define the level of partnership
Each partnership is unique, but defining its level early on can help avoid communication and other missteps down the road. Ask yourselves how committed you are to each other and how you envision your relationship evolving over time. The better you understand what you’re committing to, both logistically and emotionally, from day one, the more likely you’ll avoid potential problems in months or years ahead. Are you partners who plan to take an active role in helping each other succeed? Or will it be hands off with only periodic check-ins? Will you want a formal contract outlining all of these details? How often will you meet face-to-face (if at all)? Are there any conditions that would end your partnership—and if so, how would those be handled?
Hold regular meetings with your partner(s) to discuss your marketing strategies, new project ideas, and other industry developments. These meetings will help keep you abreast of what’s happening in your business sector, but more importantly they’ll help foster a sense of camaraderie and closeness among team members. You should also set aside time for one-on-one meetings with each member of your team on a semi-regular basis; these can be used as an opportunity to review ongoing projects or offer feedback on recent work.
Check-in, in business lingo, means being open and honest with your partner about what’s working, what isn’t, and how you feel. Checking in every week can be helpful to discuss what progress has been made. You can also be transparent about any difficulties that come up. This conversation helps you prepare for and solve problems before they escalate. Simply put, a check-in is a dialogue in which you discuss issues before they come to the surface. It’s like talking to someone on a regular basis about your personal and professional lives.
If you’re a team of one, consider brainstorming with someone on your team. Sometimes just bouncing ideas off another person is all it takes to spark some fresh perspective or connect two separate thoughts in your mind. Whether you work alone or with a team, try starting every project by sharing what you have so far and talking through any potential issues or concerns. You might be surprised at how much better your final product will be for having gone through that process first.
Set Goals Together
Figure out your goals together, then work as a team to achieve them. It’s easy for one party in business relationships to lose sight of what they’re trying to accomplish, especially when there are conflicting interests involved. When that happens, you need someone by your side who has your back. If you and your partner aren’t on the same page about certain things, set up a meeting where both parties can discuss their views openly. Remember: It takes two to tango—or at least it does if you want a successful relationship with your business partner.
You can’t expect your partner to just read your mind. Communication is key. Even if you think you and your business partner know everything about each other, you probably don’t. So reach out! Reach out! Reach out! Even if it means scheduling weekly calls or setting aside an hour every day for communication (the latter is recommended). Make sure that all of these conversations include at least one thing that you both want to accomplish over the next week—and anything else that’s important.
Have Fun Together
It might seem silly, but it’s important to make time for things other than work. When you have fun with your business partner, you build up goodwill. As an added bonus, that positive energy will bleed into all your professional interactions as well. If possible, try something new and exciting—whether it’s skydiving or salsa dancing—every couple of months. This will help keep things fresh and prevent burnout. And if you can’t find anything that fits in your schedule? Try taking a walk around town together on a nice day, or enjoy lunch at one of your favorite restaurants once in awhile.
Share Common Interests
If you work with someone on a regular basis, it’s important to find areas of common interest that transcend your professional relationship. You can also forge connections by sharing hobbies or activities outside of work. There’s nothing like getting together with someone and discovering that you both belong to a book club, or have been following an obscure band for years. By learning about each other’s interests and passions, you can create a deeper connection that will help build trust—and even lead to new business opportunities down the road.
Encourage Personal Growth
Kicking off your partnership with an honest conversation about what you both want out of it can help you avoid conflict down the road. Make sure you’re clear on expectations and goals, so that everyone is on board with where they’re headed. If there are any major differences in vision, now is probably a good time to talk about them before they become problems. Of course, when starting a business together isn’t enough to bring you two together, maybe it’s not meant to be—and that might be okay too. You don’t have to be best friends with your business partner; just try to make sure that whatever you do have in common aligns well enough for a long-term relationship.
It’s tempting to take your business partner for granted, after all, he or she has been there since day one, so what’s another year? However, business partners should be celebrated like any other member of your team. To foster a healthy relationship, make sure you celebrate milestones (big and small) together. For example, if you’ve just closed a big deal with a new client, go out for drinks to toast each other on your success. Or if it’s an anniversary of when you first started working together, plan something special over dinner.