Having a partner can be a nightmare, or it can be the best choice you make for your business. So how can you tell if you are about to walk down the path with the right person or make the biggest mistake of your life? Last week, my business partner, Dale Parris, and I celebrated the 10 year anniversary of our company--and more than 12 years of working together. Here are some tips on what makes a partnership work, culled from a decade of harmonious partnership.

Partnership works when both people involved are able to clearly identify and discuss their own strengths and weaknesses. I am a good writer and an excellent manager, but I am terrible with math. My partner, on the other hand, is a genius with numbers and logistics. We know and agree on what we are both best and worst at--which means no arguments about who is capable of doing which tasks, but more importantly, it means we can both openly ask the other for help when we are doing something out of our area of expertise. If you and your partner can't do that or both think you are the best at everything, you will waste time butting heads instead of moving your company forward.

Partnership works when you can argue vehemently about the best way to solve a problem, and yet still support the solution, even when your idea isn't the one chosen. My partner and I both want the best for our company, but we have different ideas sometimes on how best to resolve an issue. I am the kind who believes in swift action, whereas my partner, who is more analytical, takes time to suss out more measured solutions. Sometimes my all-or-nothing way forward is the route we take--and sometimes my partner knows he needs to back me down to get us to a more incremental approach. Our partnership has taught us both to be willing to try things outside of our comfort zone. If you and your partner can't listen to and respect one another's ideas--and are not willing to accept that sometimes your idea is the one that has to lose--you will focus all your energy on combatting one another instead of your competitors.

Partnership works when you are willing to go to the mat for your partner--even when that partner has made a mistake. My partner and I have both made our share of wrong calls in the ten years we have spent building Metal Mafia. Whether the mistake is one that puts us in a difficult situation publicly or just behind closed doors, we both understand that when one of us makes a misstep, the best way to fix it is to put our heads together and figure out what to do. We don't hide the problems from one another, and we don't waste time pointing fingers. If you and your partner are more interested in finding blame then finding a way to get back on track, you will spend time growing angry instead of growing your business.

Partnership works when you feel your partner's needs and goals are as important as your own. Dale and I have each gone through different phases in our personal lives, which changed the ways in which we worked together. We have always cared about one another as much as we care about ourselves. When Dale got married and had a family earlier than I did, I often volunteered to stay late to finish something so that he would be able to get home to his wife and kids. When I decided I wanted to start working off hours in order to stay home with my newborn in the mornings, Dale shuffled his life to make that possible. All of the adjustments we have made over the past decade came from both of us wanting the best for the other. If you and your partner are only focused on your own desires, you will end up doing things you each disapprove of and clashing in ways that will destroy your business from the inside out.

Partnership gives you an in-house consultant and confidant, a person to help carry the load when things get difficult, and someone to celebrate with when you win big. It is the business model that I would choose again and again--on the condition that it was with the right partner. And in my case, I got lucky, because my partner has made the last ten years better than I ever could have imagined.

Published on: Aug 15, 2014