Partnerships Are Not 50/50

John Wijtenburg
Oct 22, 2019 · 3 min read

Business was slow, my neighbor’s leaky pipes flooded my house, and my wife was on an expedition to explain some mysterious pains. I thought I hit rock bottom. I was at 10% capacity in every part of my life… except my marriage.

I had no choice but to be the 90% partner at this moment. My wife and children needed me to be there because they were at 10%.

The Best Relationship Advice Ever

I heard a podcast, a few months before the flood, where the guest explained that marriage is not 50/50, it’s 90/10.

When your spouse is at 10%, you need to be at 90%, and vice versa.

It’s even better when you’re both at 90%, and it’s an absolute mess when you’re both at 10%.

We’re going on 8 years of marriage with two boys under 6 years old. I can confirm that this advice applies to all phases of a marriage.

But I’m starting to realize that this principal extends well beyond an intimate relationship, like marriage. It applies to all partnerships with a clear vision and unified mission.

Business Partnerships Are 90/10, Too

Successful founders don’t get caught up in the economic equality of their partnership. They recognize the value that each person brings to the table and work toward an economic arrangement that benefits everyone.

A small slice of a big, growing pie is better than a big slice of a small, stagnant pie.

Economics are important, but they aren’t the most important aspect of business. Complementary skills and attributes trump economics any day of the week.

Regardless of whether you’re in charge, look for business partners that fill in your weaknesses and amplify your strengths. These could be external, internal, employee, manager, horizontal, or vertical. It doesn’t matter.

You can’t do everything.

Partnerships Drive Your Vision

Your ability to communicate a vision and motivate a team around it will set you apart from your peers.

My favorite advice for ambitious 20-somethings that come calling is to spend five years learning what you love and what you’re good at. Then, spend the next five years honing those skills and identifying the traits in people that fill in your gaps.

This advice is simple, but most people don’t take it.

Most people are afraid to be vulnerable, to ask for help. We falsely think that it reflects poorly on our abilities in front of our customer, manager, or investor. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Our stakeholders expect us to build a team. They expect us to identify the best attributes of each person in our circle and amplify them. They expect us to overpromise and find a way to overdeliver.

You owe it to yourself and those that depend on you to put in 90% where you can and fill in the 10% with the right people.

In every other case, sit happily in your 10%. That’s what makes your 90% possible.

John Wijtenburg is a hotel investor and operates Hotel Investor Toolbox, a website to help investors build and improve their hospitality business. He specializes in acquisitions support, capital advisory, and asset management. This post reflects the views of the author and does not represent the views of any clients or employers.

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