Why Your Business Partnerships Should Be Treated Like Marriages

Take any given article on the subject of business partnerships -- any given exclusive interview with an entrepreneur -- and you'll probably find that most people liken these money-motivated relationships to the holy act of matrimony, and their reasoning for doing so is pretty straightforward.

The partners that are most dedicated to achieving a certain goal are bound to spend the most time together. Like most people involved in marriages, business partners are susceptible to disputes over the routes they take, despite the fact that both parties might have a common destination.

Even money isn't a cure to all the ills that business relationships face. As tech entrepreneur and Inc. contributor Marc Barros stated in an article published this week, "Success doesn't make these relationships any easier -- just look at the bickering founders of Twitter and Facebook."

It's clear, then, that there are certain plans of action to be taken to avoid any breakups. After all, like with any divorce, the state of your household (business) is bound to be affected by any happenings detrimental to the relationship. Furthermore, whether you're running a multi-million-dollar corporation or planning an event for your organization on campus, you are (or at least should be) inclined to do everything you can to keep your team on track.

So, what exactly do most people "in the know" consider the most important factor in keeping your business relationships running? The answer should really come as no surprise:

"Business partners often start businesses together with little planning and few ground rules," the Wall Street Journal states. "Sooner or later, they discover the hard way that what’s left unsaid or unplanned often leads to unmet expectations, anger and frustration. Partners can clash over countless things, including conflicting work ethics and financial goals, roles in the business and leadership styles."

In other words, the "baby, we need to talk" conversation -- or, uhh, whatever the professional equivalent of that conversation would be -- is the point at which most business relationships go downhill, a downfall which is mostly attributed to a lack of communication.

Is seems so simple, though, doesn't it? You wouldn't need me to tell you. Everyone knows communication is essential to progress in any relationship. And yet, as Verne Harnish mentions in an article for Fortune, "Poor communication is a culprit in nearly 56 percent of projects that fail, according to 2013 findings by the Project Management Institute."

Translated, that means people underestimate just how much communication it takes to prevent everything from going south, while they're also inclined to assume that there's no time to maintain communication constantly. The reality is that partners and team members really can't afford not to "over-communicate," a habit that Harnish says will ultimately save teams from a lot of headache.

"Trust me, a daily huddle will save you time -- as long as you keep the session very brief and laser-focused," Harnish said, as he made one of many suggestions. "Schedule a five- to 15-minute, in-person meeting or conference call at the same time every day with your leadership team. Talk about what's coming up in the next 24 hours, set priorities and discuss any roadblocks that are getting people stuck, so you can clear them."

Apart from the need to reiterate the game plan continuously, there are other qualities of a typically successful relationship that business partners should look to adopt. There is, for example, a need to think of the children, the ones you care about most.  For any partnership or team, in any capacity, the "children" would be the clients, customers and/or people they're servicing.

"When evaluating a potential business partnership, I look at my weaknesses and what I need help with," Forbes contributor Patrick Hull wrote in May. "I also think about my clients and what type of partnership would benefit them."

Staying focused on the people who will be at the receiving end of whatever results from your partnership is what is most important. The number of people that positively react to the job you do greatly determines your team's success. This is perfectly demonstrated in the way that Snapchat co-founders Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy have done well in attracting millions to use their app, which increases the value of their company.

Hull also says that there is a need to remember the idea of mutual benefit. All parties need to have a sense of gain in a successful partnership, a sense of give and take.

All of this -- all of the testimonials and tips given by entrepreneurs who have been there and done that -- amounts to one big lesson. Business partnership, team projects, collaborations -- whatever you want to call it -- need to be considered on a personal level, in addition to professional.

Unless you're a one-man show, your projects, whether they make you money or not, are likely to be highly dependent on your business relationships and the team work that ensues. Constant communication and reiteration of the game plan at hand goes a long way in producing a successful result.

Photo credit: WENN