You Think You Know Someone – Partnership Lessons
Failure has always been something I struggled to deal with, let alone admit to it. As I matured it didn’t get better until I had a series of failures that when I looked back taught me valuable lessons.
When I decided to take the first step to entrepreneurship I was not confident in my own abilities. It was new terrain and I needed someone to help me navigate around this world. I naturally defaulted to looking for a business partner whom I could share my dream with and work with them to achieve it. Afterall, I would leverage on their strengths to counter my weaknesses. It sounded like a pretty good idea and I knew people who could do just that. With this fear rooted in me I took the bold step of approaching an acquaintance and sold my vision. Needless to say they were as excited as I was and we agreed to conquer the world together! The catch was I needed to do the same for their business. I figured “a fair exchange is no robbery”. The ground work was done during my conceptualization stage and all that was left was execution. We hit the ground running and it seemed we were on the same page for a while. It is admittedly difficult to juggle two babies at the same time and we are naturally inclined to favour our own. We were both investing more time in our individual pursuits than bringing our collective efforts towards one goal. When we were not getting monetary results as expected the disagreements ensued. I was adamant that my way of doing things was the best approach and I was generally bias. You would think a rookie like myself would have a teachable spirit. Clearly, I had a lot to learn. Our business partnership did not yield the results that I had expected and eventually we decided to call it quits. Break ups can be a painful process or it can be relief. I had mixed feelings. I still do. This is why I’ve chosen to remain single after several attempts. Don’t pity me. I am at peace about it.
So what are the lessons I learnt about business partnerships?
- Have a clear reason why you need a partner and how it will contribute to the success of your business.
- Take time to look for the right person with the necessary skill set. It does not have to be someone you know but someone with a proven track record. It can get complicated if it is a relative or close friend. Be sure your relationship is strong enough to weather a business break-up and not take it personal.
- Make sure that you are upfront about your expectations and clearly document these.
- What you may lack in skills, knowledge and understanding can be acquired from a business mentor or outsourced.
- We are living in a technologically advanced era where information is readily available. Take yourself to school and learn.
A colleague of mine used to joke that I was married to my business partner on paper. It was no joke. Even business relationships need effort, time and commitment in pursuit of a common goal. You need to know that your partner is the right person for you. They don’t need to be perfect. Just right, for you.
Nothing Fails Like Success
My worst failure was success.
When I was a student at varsity, I used to sell airtime. I had the best deal in town, I used to buy Vodacom R29 for R25, MTN R30 for R25 and Cell C. Well, I do not remember how much Cell C cost, but I got a discount on it too. Cell C was the slowest to move that time, in 2003. I sold each for R2 discount.
The business was successful. It started to interfere with my studies. There was no time to study, every now and then someone would knock at my door looking for airtime.
As someone in search of education I was faced with choosing between my studies and selling airtime. At least those were the only options I knew at the time. Naturally, I closed the business. It did not feel like a failure at the time, it felt like being decisive and taking care of first things first.
As time progressed and I was ready to go back to business. I shopped around and that deal was nowhere to be found. The airtime business is very challenging. If you have been to some of the townships you would notice extra R1 or R0.50 added to the airtime price in an attempt to make some profit.
When I needed to do business. Let me say, desperately needed to do business. I could not help but reminisce on the good days. It dawned on me, that I was supposed to hire someone instead of closing off the business. That time my business acumen was extremely low.
Looking back, I know that I was successful as a businessman. I did not know how to handle success and that led to failure. I know better today that it is important to employ the expertise of a mentor to have an experienced view and guidance on matters relating to handle success.
Lacking the ability to handle success turned my success into a failure. And it remains my worst failure.
It is true. Nothing fails like success.
Multiple Business Owner