An Essay for Those Wondering about Starting a Partnership

I’ve been working with a business partner since 2012. Greenlane is by far my most successful professional venture, so I only know my biggest success with a business partner. I find it interesting, whether at a conference or just a random business chat, how regularly people ask about the details of our partnership. Not in an intrusive way, but more out of curiosity in their own interests of possibly setting off with a partnership.

The benefits sound great. Someone to take the risk with you, someone to bounce ideas off, and someone to help manage entrepreneurial duties.

Candidly, the cons are equally scary. What if you don’t get along, or the relationship sours? What if the other gets you in trouble? What if you can’t agree?

There’s no way to deny it. A partnership can be a tough call if you’re not prepared.

To tell the story of my situation, Keith and I worked together for years, meeting in 2007 or so. We worked in the same office space but in different departments. We were witness to each other’s mannerisms and ethics, as well as reputation around the company. Clearly we had a history to lean on when ultimately deciding to go into business together. I worked in the SEO department of a big agency, while he worked in the analytics department of the same agency. From the get-go, we knew we had complementary skills and experience. And we were around each other enough to know we honestly liked each other.

Big ideas often come from the smallest conversations. By the water cooler, we talked about taking my sole proprietorship consulting company and turning it into a full-blown agency partnership. We liked the idea of building it out to be more of the agency we envisioned our space needed (based against our prior agency home). We wanted to operate an agency that focused on analytics as much as it focused on SEO. I once heard from a former CEO that he intentionally hired people smarter than him; that resonated with me, and helped make this possible venture even more appetizing.

Candidly, we had a lot going for us when we decided to quit our day jobs. We had a relationship, trust, respect, and complimentary strengths. I would assume that’s not the case with most prospective partners, but certainly things to build towards, not unlike any longstanding relationship.

But we also had complimentary traits. Keith is very logical, intelligent, and likes to take time to think things through. I’m a hustler, quick to make and learn from mistakes, and outgoing. We candidly admit we balance each other out. It becomes real clear when there’s a challenge at hand, which of us should tackle based on our traits and experience. We realized we needed to split roles and duties, simply because it wasn’t efficient to keep running every little detail past each other. Knowing each other like we do made making the organizational change easy.

Since 2012, we’ve never had a real argument or crippling disagreement. A shared quality we both have is an alway-open mind, or maybe better put, a lack of ego. I’ve found that when you put your ego down and trust your partner, it’s very easy to compromise. It becomes easier to not only support your partner’s ideas, but rally behind them. If you have a different idea, and you collectively decide to pursue the partner’s idea, the support system you’ve built makes it easy for the partner to potentially say, “Ok, that idea bombed, let’s give yours a shot.” No ego, no drama, no problem — just progress.

I never saw myself as a business owner, even though I occasionally fantasized about it. So while I have pride in the Greenlane name that I had previously built, I have more excitement about where that name can expand. I definitely owe so much to a great partnership, of which I couldn’t have reached these heights without. Do I recommend it? Absolutely. As long as you are entirely confident you’ll both be on the same page until the end of the venture. Fools not only rush in, they also carry big egos.