How to Keep a Partner for 17 Years in a Business

Nov 1, 2020

I’m an entrepreneur. And I love number 13.

I created my first company in 2002, and, right now, I’m running 3 companies simultaneously. This is not to brag, but to give some real context to this story.

As you can imagine, I’ve lived in all kinds of situations. To overcome them, the most crucial point has been having a business partner by my side.

Once you have decided to be a company of two, the ideal scenario would be to keep that relationship forever. At least, until one of the partners decides to leave.

How can you make that relationship last and even grow?

It’s not easy, but after having a successful business relationship since 2003 with my partner, Tito, I can tell you some of what I consider are the key points to achieve this critical goal.

1. Not being friends at the beginning.

Many people create their businesses with friends. That’s a risk.

A relationship of friendship has nothing to do with a business relationship.

It’s better to do the opposite. Start as business partners, and end up being friends. That’s the way we made.

2. Respect each other

Any kind of relationship must be based on respect. Respect is earned by your attitude, your knowledge, and your behavior.

3. Being complementary

My partner and I have two very different profiles.

He’s a creative machine, full of ideas, king of anarchy.

I’m the one who’s organized, focus on productivity, costs, processes, accountability.

Am I the boring one? Be sure of that.

4. Having different roles inside the company.

Our first company, which is still running and growing year by year, is a global marketing agency.

We have a clear division between our roles.

He runs all the creative part (creativity, design, products, services, clients…).

I run all the management (accountability, human resources, processes, strategy, tools, procedures…).

We never bump into each other.

5. Having the same economic level.

The closer you are, talking about the economy in your personal lives, the better. That’s how both of you can initially invest the same amount of money and at any other moment in the future.

This is key because how you see (and have lived) money in your life is fundamental in the company.

I’ve seen many partners broke their relationship because one of them was much wealthier than the other. It’s not only the amount of money you have but how you see it, based on your personal and individual experience.

6. Not sharing the same place of work.

In our case, we have 3 different offices in Spain, two in the North of the country and the other one in Madrid, Spain’s capital. Even though we are both traveling a lot, each of us has its own “headquarter”.

My partner stays in the North, and I live in Madrid.

This avoids daily physical contact, a factor that, sadly, erodes relationships.

7. Having the same cultural level.

You will have to make many decisions together. If you have a similar cultural/educational level, conversations will run more smoothly.

That’s key to avoid tension in the relationship.

8. Having the same philosophy of life

Having the same perspective about life is critical to nurture the relationship.

How come are you going to keep on running your business if, as soon as the company starts earning money, one of the partners thinks they should save it for future investments, and the other one thinks they should buy a Ferrari?

You can laugh, but these scenarios will appear sooner than you think.

If your idea is good and you’re giving real added-value to the market, the money will come in. Here starts trouble.

9. Being unselfish

Since the beginning of our relationship, my partner and I always think about the other one before oneself.

If there’s a situation in which “I win, and he loses”, I always do the opposite, changing to a different scenario in which “He wins, and I lose”. This works the same for him.

Being unselfish at the beginning (and the rest of your life) is vital if you want to cultivate long term relationships.

You don’t have to behave like that just because it’s key for the relationship but because you do really believe it.

Things that are made by the heart always last.

10. Admire each other

If you see your partner as someone who you admire, that will make the relationship last.

You always want to be close or by the side of someone who:

  • inspires you,
  • motivates you,
  • you can learn from,
  • is much better than you (maybe unreachable) in some topics.

11. Prioritizing equally the company in our lives

Our company has the same priority for us in our personal lives. It’s at the center of our lives, and we do both agree on that.

This means we will make the same personal sacrifices, efforts and suffering together.

12. Our personal relationships have always respected our project and our relationship

My partner and I, obviously, have each one our personal lives.

Our girlfriends or wives have always respected our relationship, and we both have been able to communicate them and explain how meaningful our relationship is for our projects and our lives.

Lots of companies and professional projects are ruined due to the personal relationships of each of the partners (no matter if they are he or she…).

Remember “The Beatles”?

13. Using always “WE” instead of “I”

Whenever we have been successful, whenever we have made a big mistake, we always say:

  • “WE have succeeded”
  • “WE have failed”
  • “WE are great”
  • “WE are a disaster”

None of us is better or worse than the other. We are together in this amazing journey. It’s our ship. Everything that happens is because one of us sometimes, the two of us some other times, get right or wrong in our decisions.

We are a team, no matter what happens.

With this philosophy is how we are “living together” this dream of life.

WE have laughed together.

WE have cried together.

WE have enjoyed success and suffered from failure.

WE have overcome TOGETHER all the ups and downs a company has during its life.

This formula works.

I always say the same: “The best is yet to come”.

PS: Tito, I love you.

Photo at the top made by Author.

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