Women In Business

Perfecting the art of the successful business partnership

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Going into a new business partnership is often flagged as a risky endeavour—according to one study, the ‘divorce’ rate for business partners is as high as 80 per cent—but every decision (business and otherwise) carries with it a degree of risk. And without a crystal ball on hand to guide you, sometimes you just have to trust in the process and jump on in!

After four years in a thriving partnership, I can attest to the fact that (if managed correctly) the rewards of having a long-term business partner far outweigh the perceived risks. Martin Cox and I founded our digital agency DO Commerce in 2013 after a well-timed cup of coffee and a realisation we shared a passion for digital marketing and ecommerce projects, and we’ve never looked back.

There are a few key elements to consider when navigating a new business partnership; most can be boiled down to having shared goals, good communication skills and a healthy dose of respect for your partner.

Take the plunge

You’ll never know before jumping in whether the partnership will stand the test of time (and the stress of new business!) but there are a few things that can help ensure you get off to the right start. It’s important to actually like your would-be business partner—you’ll be spending an awful lot of time together. Martin and I worked together on creative design projects previously, so we already had a friendship and a respect for the other’s capabilities.

No matter how much you like or respect your business partner, it’s also important to start off with clear expectations and formal business partnerships to avoid any disputes down the line.

Find your common ground

A good partnership has to have a solid foundation based on an alignment of values and goals. You and your partner should share similar ambitions for your business. Martin and I have both been passionate about digital marketing, design and ecommerce from our previous roles, so it was a natural extension of these interests to set up our agency. We also share core personal and professional values of honesty, integrity, creativity and loyalty, which mean small differences don’t shake the foundations of our partnership.

Identify (and champion) your differences

Difference is always going to be a feature of a business partnership; we all have individual things we love, things we recognise as strengths and weaknesses. It’s important to acknowledge the various traits you and your partner have, and effectively manage where each of you can best provide value to your business.

Martin and I are complete opposites in many ways, with very different but complementary skills. We are constantly learning from each other, and pushing the other to think about a given task or issue in a new way. He’s incredibly analytical and attentive to every detail, whereas I’m driven by client acquisition. It’s a great blend of technical and sales capability, and we intuitively mop up after each other as needed.

Respect the need for space

It’s important to give each other the space to be autonomous. Martin and I started out by handling every client together, but soon realised we were more efficient and more creative if we split them up and had our own individual portfolios. We don’t interfere too much in each other’s process (unless asked). We have different ways of moving forward but we both trust that the other will deliver a successful outcome for the client and our business.

Keep the lines of communication open

This one is crucial. A business partnership requires solid lines of communication, and often a bit of compromise; we communicate consistently and continually set and reset our expectations. The only way it works is if we are constantly engaged and putting a voice to any concerns or ideas. We talk through any differences of opinion and move forward without letting things simmer.

Remember your why

At the end of the day, it’s really important to both of us to bring it back to the respect we have for each other’s contributions and the passion we have for our business and our clients.

You’ve got to be supportive of each other—it’s a real privilege to work alongside someone whose skills and talent you admire, so don’t let that get lost in the day-to-day of running a business.

About Laura Qureshi

Laura Qureshi is director and co-founder of digital design and ecommerce agency DO Commerce, a Melbourne-based digital agency helping its clients sell millions of products each month. Laura holds a Bachelor of Management (Marketing) and brings more than ten years of strategic marketing experience to her role.

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