Partnerships Need Rhythm

Justin Jackson posted a great article stating that, “you need help,” when it comes to projects and business. He has made a great parallel with Walt & Roy Disney. We all know the name Walt and the ideas he brought to the world, but many aren’t familiar with Roy, the Disney brother who executed on Walt’s ideas. Their partnership lead to great things for themselves and the world around them. It is apparent that what they accomplished together could not have been done singularly and that was the point of (the other) Justin’s article.

It Takes Two

While I completely agree with Justin that we all could use a complimentary skill set and another head (because two are better than one) as part of a project or business, it is essential to wade into the partnership pool, not dive into the deep end. It is easy to get excited about the possibilities of accomplishing something together, but it is very hard to break away from being in a partnership that doesn’t work. Like any relationship, it takes two to make things work and time is the best way to indicate this. While each partner will have strengths and weaknesses, two people have to pull the weight to accomplish a goal. Whether it be entitlement, a misjudgement of what is required, or purely innocent inexperience, you will find that many partnerships don’t work because one partner does not take ownership of what is required of them.


Rhythm isn’t perfected instantly, just ask the guy on drums.

Partnerships require a rhythm and like any musician can tell you, fine-tuning your rhythm takes time and practice. For some, rhythm comes naturally and for others, they need a metronome to guide them at all times. Just like two musicians riffing off of each other, working on projects and business ideas together in a way that is both fulfilling and worthwhile doesn’t usually happen instantly. Your rhythm with a partner is honed over time and that is why it’s important to gradually progress into a partnership. Because accomplishing a goal in a partnership takes two people with a shared rhythm, you need to test that partnership first in little ways.

Test for Compatibility

Test your team with a small project or goal to make sure that your partnership scales to larger endeavours together. Find something smaller that you’re all (or both if it’s just two of you; a team can be any size) interested in accomplishing or break off a piece of a larger goal and start there. Imagine an acquaintance who is skilled in physical product and web design. This acquaintance approaches you asking if you want to build an online business with them that will sell bespoke, bejewelled cat collars. This idea interests you, you know that your web development and business skills would compliment their design skills and this could be a great venture together. Instead of jumping in and committing to that new venture, start small. Start with a website landing page or a business plan for your cat collar (“CatGlam” anyone?) business. Start with part of the bigger plan and gauge how well your new partner compliments your skills and contributes to a shared goal. You get closer to your shared goal and find out a lot about each other along the way without going so far that it becomes too hard to turn back.

Some Questions to Ponder

It is worthwhile to ponder some questions about the partnership itself before taking part in the shared goals. Whether you ask your partner these questions outright or answer them in your own head, it is wise to do so.

How would they handle a tough situation?
Sometimes your partner starts as a friend and sometimes you have never met them before embarking on this goal together. Either way, it isn’t likely you know how they handle tough situations. Be honest with your partner and ask them this question tactfully in a way that shows that you respect them but that you believe this is in everyone’s best interests to share how you both handle tough situations.

Is their commitment to this goal as strong as mine?
Is your partner merely capable of helping you fulfill your goal or actively interested in overcoming the hurdles and effort it will take to accomplish it? That is a very important question to answer and imperative to find out as soon as possible.

Do we get along beyond just our idea?
There’s so many ideas out there and so many people to accomplish them with, you might as well enjoy the time and conversation with your partner.

What are the expectations of the time involved?
If one partner is single and works part-time, their expectations of the time put into a partnership’s goal is vastly different from a married partner with a full-time job and two kids. Thinking this through first is fair both to your partner and yourself.

What are my expectations of my partner?
This sets your expectations along the path you are about to take. Diving into a business only to find out along the way that you believe another person in the partnership should have been responsible for replying to client emails will only lead to disappointment and resentment.

Worth It

While there are other relevant questions to can ask, these ones are a strong starting point for you and your partner. Remember that partnerships are a great way to tackle a big, audacious goal but they can also be a quick path to a lot of stress and strained friendships.

All of this isn’t meant to scare you away from partnerships. As Justin Jackson said, “you don’t have to make it alone.” He is completely right. You can accomplish more as a team and the results are often much better when you have someone else’s opinion and differing skill set involved. You certainly don’t have to make it alone, just make sure that it’s worth it not to.

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