The five keys to a successful business partnership

By Akram Sabbagh. Published at Jul 2, 2019, in Start Your Engines

Nothing is of more importance to a successful business than working with the right people.

When it comes to partnerships, that’s even more crucial. The person you work with can make or break your business, your prosperity, and by extension, your wellbeing.

So, the stakes on picking the right business partner are pretty high.

At Second Squared, my business partner Lui Pangiarella and I have been lucky enough to cultivate a successful and harmonious business partnership, but we know from our long history in the business community that not everyone’s as fortunate. So here are the keys to establishing a successful partnership in business.

Akram Sabbagh (L) Lui Pangiarella (R).

Complementary Capabilities

Even if you’re a dog person, every successful partnership needs cats. It is pointless having the same skills and capabilities as your partner. While you might have lovely intellectual conversations about your strengths, someone still has to do the other stuff. You want to have complementary skills that mean the sum of the two of you adds up to a complete business skill set.

Alignment

You have to be pointing in the same direction for the relationship to work. Alignment is important not just in the day-to-day, but more so for the long-term and end goals of the business. That doesn’t mean you can’t disagree or debate issues, but everyone must be clear in the end on what the direction of the company is. Conflict is good and can be very productive, but it needs to be resolved effectively before you proceed further.

Trust

Some years back I had the opportunity to speak to a relative who ran one of the biggest engineering firms in the Middle East. I asked him what the secret to his long-term success was, and ‘trust’ was his response. Trust in his business partner to do the things he couldn’t and trust that they had each other’s backs. But trust isn’t automatic – you must give it to someone before you expect it back. But once it’s established, it’s invaluable.

Communication

I was consulting with a company that was starting to show signs of failing, because the business relationship between the principals had deteriorated. My advice was simple – go for a walk for an hour every week and talk. Talk about your lives, talk about the business – but most importantly, just talk. If you don’t know how your partners are travelling or have any idea of their goals or concerns, how are you supposed to achieve anything?

Ambition, Commitment and Hard Work

This one’s pretty simple – you won’t get anywhere if only one of you is doing any work. A business partnership needs to be a true partnership, with each person carrying equal weight. Otherwise, why bother?

These five things are the building blocks of any successful business partnership. If you can establish these, you have the foundation for a long and successful business relationship.

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