Thursday, December 22, 2011

Partnership

I had a great conversation about partnerships with Chris Moody this evening. Chris and I have been working closely together for six months now at Gnip. As one of our investors put it, "the company is ending the year having completely exceeded any rational expectations." I personally described our year to my wife as having "f***ing killed it!" One of the contributors to our success so far has been effective partnerships within the company (certainly including ours).

Over the past few years the notion of "co-founders" and "partners" has pervaded much of the entrepreneurial/investment landscape. Techstars pushes the notion of "co-founders" hard. Generally a "technical founder" and a "non-technical founder" are considered essential to success. I have strong opinions around artificially binding two people together in a "partnership." Life-long buddies can yield priceless relationships in business (also disaster of course. it takes a special initial friendship to do business together down the road). However, putting two people in a fishbowl and seeing if they'll thrive together is a hard thing to do. Your odds of successfully partnering are much better if...

  • the way each party generally wants to spend their day is different.
    • if partnerA wants to wash the dishes, and partnerB wants to wash the floor, that's good.
    • if partnerA wants to wash the dishes, and partnerB does too, that's bad.
  • the line separating responsibilities reflects the parties' interests, and is clearly drawn.
    • if partnerA wants to wash the dishes, and partnerB wants to wash the floor, and partnerA is responsible for the dishes, and partnerB is responsible for the floors; that's good.
    • if partnerA wants to wash the dishes, and partnerB wants to wash the floor, and partnerA is responsible for the floor, and partnerB is responsible for the dishes, that's bad.
  • each party has the skills/ability to do great things in their area of interest.
    • if partnerA wants to wash the dishes, and partnerB wants to wash the floor, and they're both good at what they want to do, that's good.
    • if partnerA wants to wash the dishes, and partnerB wants to wash the floor, and one, or both, of them is not good at doing what they want to do, that's bad.
All of this assumes fundamentals like the belief that "two heads are indeed better than one" for a given challenge, honesty, trust, rapport, and overall common interest in the goals.

If you're in a partnership, or considering one, check against the bullets above to make sure the partnership is setup for success.

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