How to Structure a Good Partnership

Take a smart approach when choosing a business partner. Do research, pick wisely, build trust, communicate, and work together to maximize wins.

To scale your business effectively, you simply can’t do everything yourself. In some parts of your business — whether it’s marketing, design, accounting, or HR — you are going to need to establish, maintain and cultivate partnerships with other people and/or companies.

The best partners bring different skill sets to the table. If you’re a visionary, big picture thinker, and brilliant strategist, you might need a partner who is detail-oriented and great at implementation. Maybe you’re a creative marketer but you have no interest in handling anything relating to accounting. Your partner should offer strengths and capabilities that you lack.

Creating a partnership can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be if you take the right approach. So, how do you build a strong partnership?

Think of a business partnership like dating

When you start exploring potential partnerships, think about it the same way you would dating. Start slowly and cautiously, and do some research. Ask around to see if the potential partner has a good reputation or if there are any red flags that should make you run the other way..

Don’t just casually pick a business partner without doing due diligence.. Just as you’d look at a potential mate’s online profile, look at the prospective partner’s website, client list, testimonials, and case studies. Check their references and ask for examples of projects that are similar to what you need.

Values are important in both business and personal relationships. Find a partner that’s aligned with your values, beliefs, and standards.

Start small to build trust

Once you select a partner, start with a small, simple project to make sure they meet (or exceed) your expectations. This is a good way to ensure that you work well together before collaborating on a major, time-intensive project. A small initial trial will allow you to learn what works and what doesn’t before you expand to something bigger. This is also a great way to start building trust.

When establishing that first partnership, pick something you know a little bit about, but not enough to be an expert at it. Why? This gives you a better opportunity to judge how well the partner is performing on something you wouldn’t necessarily do yourself.

Once you establish a strong first partnership, you will be in a much better place to stretch out and bring on additional partners.

Define the Relationship

What kind of partnership are you envisioning? Do you want a partner to execute the directions that you provide or are you looking for a self-starter who works independently without much direction? Do you want a short-term partner who can set up a system that you’ll then run yourself, or are you looking for a long-term collaboration, like an accounting expert to handle your company’s finances? There’s no right or wrong answer here, but you do need to clearly define your expectations from the start and make sure your partner is on board with your vision for the relationship.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

No relationship — from dating to work partnerships — will survive without good communication. No one can read your mind, so communicate what you need from your partner. Be clear about your expectations, be honest about why you like (or don’t like) something your partner delivers, and provide constructive feedback.

And, remember that communication is a two-way street. You’ll need to listen carefully to what they’re telling you. Maybe your expectations are unrealistic and your partner needs more time, money, or information to do the job successfully. Take their feedback seriously.

In work — like in our personal lives — we sometimes have to have difficult discussions with our partners. Perhaps their latest deliverable didn’t meet your expectations, you have to cut their budget significantly, or the client requested major revisions. Be brave, kind, and straightforward during these “courageous conversations”.

Have the same cadence

Cadence is key to establishing a good partnership. When you participate in a sport — running for example — and you decide to partner with someone else, you have to find someone that enjoys the same type of running — 5ks vs. marathons — and keeps a similar pace.

I have found this to be true in business partnerships as well. If you like to make fast decisions, take risks, and expect to grow your business quickly, you likely won’t want to partner with someone who is slower moving, much more cautious, and has different revenue expectations.

Working with a business partner can be scary — just like dating! — but it’s often essential for growth. Do your homework, start small, build trust over time, communicate, and you’ll be well on your way to a successful partnership.

This article was written in collaboration with Chris LaFay of Classic City. Check out his article, 6 Qualities Necessary to Create a Strong Business Partnership.



Dojo Master and Chief Strategist at

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store