Kyle Nordman, an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member from Vancouver, is the Principal and co-founder of Savoury Chef Foods, Vancouver's premier full-service catering and events company, and the Online Pastry Training Centre. We asked Kyle about the keys to making a really strong business partnership and why it's so hard to do. Here's what he had to say:

Forming a business partnership out of a pre-existing relationship can be tricky, but making things personal isn't something you should necessarily avoid. Of course, all relationships differ when it comes to those dynamics unique to every couple, but working with my amazing wife and talented chef, Taryn Wa, has been well worth it. It's amazing to see what we have achieved--the harmony and balance both in the workplace and at home--and to truly be able to share in each other's success.

Don't get me wrong though. Finding the right partner in business (let alone in life) doesn't come easy. And having been through two business endeavors in my life, I'm not naïve. I'm also not saying going into business with your spouse, friend, or family member is for everyone. It's definitely not all scotch and high-fives from the get go, not matter how much you think you get along with someone. In fact, before Savoury Chef, my first attempt at building a business was a failure.

It was a technology project and for a lot of practical reasons should have been very successful. My business partner and I were both full of the same ideas and vision. In fact, that we got along so well and thought so similarly was precisely the problem. Our talents overlapped. Agreeing so much meant that we were then both right and both wrong when it came to making important decisions.

From that experience, I've learned that any successful relationship needs that yin and yang. That's what I feel Taryn and I bring to Savoury Chef. While I have a genuine interest in food, my real passion is people and how they interact with our business. I'm a puzzle freak, so a lot of my job satisfaction comes from problem solving and adapting different software and technologies to make our business more efficient and user-friendly.

Developing this balance and role within the company was also a very gradual process. When Taryn first got into catering, I was still working another job, and my intention was simply to help get things off the ground. Our business partnership emerged out of each person doing the things they loved - and realizing how these things could compliment what the other was doing.

Again, I'm not saying this would be the case for everyone. It's ultimately about being realistic. Even if the person you're considering going into business with is your best friend and you already spend lots of time together, there are some important things you need to ask yourself:

  1. What are your strengths? What skills do you have to offer that are specific to you? Don't kid yourself either! Real, lasting success comes from job satisfaction; that means feeling good about your personal contributions and taking pride in the work you've done.
  2. Do you foresee potential clashes of personality or too much similarity? The fact of the matter is that you're not going to get along all the time. This isn't to say you shouldn't go into business together. It just means that you need to be realistic and prepare for those instances as much as you can. And this includes things you might not see as "clashes," for instance, areas where there is too much overlap or agreement in your thinking.
  3. What are your intentions? Asking this involves being really honest about why you're doing what you're doing and making sure you're getting as much out of the arrangement as the other person. Even if your business centers more obviously around one partner's talent, it's not a true partnership if you're not accomplishing your own independent goals and satisfying your own separate interests and creativity, too.

When I decided to go into business with my wife, it was about believing in her talent so much that I felt the need to help share it with other people. It wasn't just a business opportunity; it was a real passion project. Supporting her career was also something I was already doing and committed to, but making sure this was something I was doing for myself as much as for her has been key. It never felt like something I had to do. It wasn't a competition either. It's been a genuine collaboration, and that spirit has extended beyond our initial partnership, especially when it comes to those we've brought on board as part of the core team at Savoury Chef. It's just as important to us that they feel that sense of contribution, mutual respect and personal (as well as professional) satisfaction.

Because no matter what anyone says, it's never just business. If you're trying to build something, whether at work or at home, it's part of the time you spend and the life you share with the people around you. And that's always personal.

Published on: Feb 12, 2016