Too often we hear reasons as to why business partners can be bad. If you have an argument, then who gets the business? What if one partner doesn't pull their weight? However, I'm coming from a different perspective. This is for those that have had an amazing business partner, so good that they allowed you to not have to focus at all on a certain aspect of the business. For those that have never been in that type of partnership, there are two ways you can relate:
Have you ever had a serious significant other or spouse?
Have you ever worked on a group project?
If so, did you and your significant other have specific roles or duties, e.g. it was someone's responsibility to make dinner, take out the trash, walk the dog, etc.? You get accustomed to one person playing a certain role that you totally relinquish all the responsibility to them. The same goes for a group project. Have you ever worked on a project were someone was so good at their assigned task that you didn't have to worry about it because you knew they had it covered? You trust your partner and know they will get it done.
Wait...so that's a bad thing?
Yes, it can be, and I'll tell you why. It's because you never get the opportunity to branch outside your assigned duty. In regards to the group project analogy, you never get the opportunity to learn the other part of the project since your teammate had it covered. In a relationship, you may never learn how to cook because you're accustomed to your significant other cooking, and when they're not there you order take out or make the most basic of meals. As many say, business partnerships are like marriages; and just like marriages, it's easy to get comfortable.
However, that can be detrimental. I know firsthand how it feels to get so comfortable with the skills your partner has that you totally relinquish a certain aspect of the business to them. I've talked to a lot of business owners, and you'll be surprise how often I've heard some variation of this:
"I know nothing about that part of the business, I just build the product. Talk to Bob, he handles the marketing."
You should know about the marketing for YOUR business. That's mind-boggling. Your business is your baby! God forbid Bob gets hit by a bus! What would you do then?
Another excuse that I've heard is:
"Bob is better at presenting than I am, so I just let him do all the talking."
I have a confession to make. That was me! I had the biggest issue with public speaking. I would get super nervous and jumble my words, and I would feel extremely insecure about what I was saying like it wasn't smart or impressive enough. Therefore, I would rely on my partner to do all of the talking.
We entered a lot of business plan competitions and I would have my partner do the majority of the pitch when presenting our idea. I was nervous and scared of having that much responsibility. What if I forget my lines? My words tend to get jumbled. I'm not the best at expressing my thoughts verbally. All these insecurities were swimming around in my head, and I never had the opportunity to confront them because my partner was, in a sense, an enabler. He enabled me to continually rely on him to do most of the speaking.
Have you ever thought that your partner may not be better in that aspect of the business than you, but perhaps just had more practice?
My partner had tons of practice with public speaking! He was on the speech and debate team in college, got mentored by one of the top public speakers in the world, and -- guess what? He eventually wanted to become a public speaker!
At the time I just thought he was amazing at speaking and I sucked. I didn't view it as him having had more practice than me, and that I could eventually be that good If I only practiced more.
Take a look at this interview my business partner and I did. I was essentially a bump on a log. I actually cringed watching that again. Why didn't I chime in?! Fear, that's why. I was intimidated and thought my partner could say anything that I was going to say 10 times better. My partner was my crutch and I allowed him to limit my chance to exercise my dormant public speaking skills.
I knew public speaking was a skill I needed to learn, thus I decided not to run from it. I just practiced, practiced and -- you guessed it -- practiced! I'm not a master at public speaking, but I am better than I was before. Face your fears head on, and believe it or not, you will get better.
Even if you don't see the value of learning a certain aspect of the business your partner takes care of, you should. Maybe your partner handles the finance, and you handle the creative side....so! You still need to be able to speak intelligently and confidently on how the money is flowing in and out of your business.
As an entrepreneur, you signed up to be a life long learner. Don't ever forget that. Your business is your baby, and nobody should know your baby better than you.