A business partnership combined with friendship? It’s definitely possible. For Women’s Friendship Month, Laura Rothschild writes about her friendship and business with Sandra O’Donnell.
When I first met Sandra O’Donnell, I never imagined we would be business partners. It took a solid friendship, several collaborations, travel, sharing a bathroom, hours upon hours of conversations and faith for us to make the leap. If you are considering a business partnership, I have five tips that have helped RO Literary thrive as not only a successful literary agency but a loving and committed partnership.
You wouldn’t buy a car without driving it first, or buy a house without seeing it in person, and most people wouldn’t get married, unless you are Brittany Spears or a Kardashian, without at least going out on one date. Test drive your compatibility with a potential business partner by collaborating on smaller projects first. Even if your potential partner is also your best friend, don’t assume this automatically means you are ready for business bliss. Take the time, and test out what it feels like to work together.
Before Sandra and I co-founded RO Literary, we were solopreneurs working as book coaches and publishing consultants. Every time I turned to her for advice, or asked her to collaborate with me on a client’s project, my knowledge-base grew exponentially, and my clients benefitted. We then collaborated on more coaching projects and started hosting writing retreats together. All of that early test-driving led us to RO Literary.
Find a partner who has different strengths than you do. The best collaborators are those who can balance each other and elevate their collective powers. I found myself a partner with a Ph.D. and other fancy degrees who is an expert in an area I’m not. I don’t have fancy letters after my name, but I do have experience that compliments hers and fills the gaps she needed. Oh, and I’m from the north, and she’s from the south. She eats okra, and I do NOT…On paper, we are as opposite as you can get, but I digress. The point is, our ‘opposites’ work in our favor.
I am a firm believer you should surround yourself with quality. Quality chocolate, quality sheets, quality friends and a quality business partner. I always surround myself with people I respect as experts in their field, who have similar ideas about success as I do, and who are smarter than I am. Osmosis is an incredible thing! Let it work in your favor!
I also chose a partner who wants me to succeed. Sandra is my biggest cheerleader, and she always challenges me in ways that propel my success. It’s a win-win situation.
Nice Is Important
Even the most loving of partners will disagree. Observe how your potential partner treats others. Are they respectful, kind, open to criticism? Do they ask your opinion and feedback on their work? Are they open to personal growth? How do they treat themselves? Are they negative and unloving, constantly putting themselves down? By observing your potential partner in various situations, you can get a sense of how their style outside the office will mesh in a way that will strengthen your styles inside the office.
Money And What If Scenarios
Before you make the leap into a partnership, make a list of all the WHAT IF, positive AND negative, scenarios you can come up with. What will you do if you can’t agree? Will you bring in a mediator? Who will pay for that? What if you want to grow your business and your partner is overwhelmed in their personal life and can’t take on more work? What about money? Do you agree on how you will invest in your business’ growth? What will happen if you don’t make a profit or if you do make a profit? What if your partner is used to a certain lifestyle? First Class Airfare and hotels? Who will pay for what?
Many women avoid conflict and cringe when it comes to discussing money. If neither of you is financially savvy-agree to hire someone who is. Don’t set yourself up for failure by ignoring these conversations.
Sandra and I are lucky, but our success as partners didn’t happen by accident. We took the necessary steps to build a solid foundation, and we continue to work on our business, and our partnership, to maintain the health of both. September is the month where we look ahead, set goals for 2017, and assess where we are and who we want to be as individuals and a company. RO continues to grow, and we continue to have a blast doing what we do. I can’t imagine it any other way. For me, a partnership has been one of the best business decisions I have ever made.