“You should be stronger
You’ve been here seven years longer than me
Don’t you know you supposed to be the man?
Not pale in comparison to who you think I am
You should be stronger
But instead you’re longer than frozen turkey
Why’d you always put me in control?
All I need is for my man to live up to his role”
– “Stronger Than Me”, Amy Winehouse
Entrepreneurs, especially when they are starting in business, often seem to want a partner. And I get it – good partners provide tremendous value. Two (or more) well suited people working together can produce far more than each person could individually.
Even people with successful partnerships will admit that there are not only benefits but challenges in the arrangement. There will be differences of opinion on specific items, contrasting working styles, different overall mindsets, etc. You have to coordinate and compromise in order to overcome the inherent challenge of having multiple “cooks in the kitchen.” But with the right combination of people, if you can overcome the struggles the end result can be tremendous.
But a bad partner is worse than no partner at all – forcing you to deal with the costs and difficulties inherent to any partnership, but without any of the rewards. It’s kind of like the old joke: “It’s better to be single wishing you were married, than to be married wishing you were single.”
So it’s never a decision that should be taken lightly. If you’re thinking of pairing up with somebody, you have to ask yourself: what value are they providing? What can they do that I cannot? What are they bringing to the table? And is what they add to the mix actually worth part of my business?
I’m reminded of a sketch on the TV show That Mitchell and Webb Look. On one episode they introduced a decidedly unevenly matched crime fighting duo:
The Angel Summoner
…and the BMX Bandit.
The partnership ended up being frustrating for all parties involved. While planning on how to take on a crew of bad guys, the following conversation ensued:
BMX Bandit: I’ll ride to the end of the pier on my BMX, hook onto the crane and swing on-board surprising the burly henchman, then I’ll pop a wheelie and knock them overboard and you can come in and grab the cartel leader.
Angel Summoner: Yeah, yeah…sounds good, or we could just use the angels again. I could summon them, no problem.
BMX Bandit: Yeah, all right. Call the angels.
Angel Summoner: Shall we?
BMX Bandit: Fine, do it.
Angel Summoner: Er, right, you don’t seem at all happy.
BMX Bandit: Well, we’re supposed to be a partnership but to be honest I’m starting to feel a little bit overshadowed here.
Angel Summoner: Oh, right. Why’s that?
BMX Bandit: Well, I think the thing is that your ability to summon a horde of celestial super beings at will is making my BMX skills look a bit…redundant.
Angel Summoner: Yeah, well, but at the end of the day it’s all about results.
BMX Bandit: Well, yeah, but…I’m quite good on my BMX.
Angel Summoner: I-I tell you what, we’ll use the angels this time but the next crisis we’re involved in we’ll solve using BMX-based tactics, alright?
BMX Bandit: Yeah, OK.
There was nothing wrong with the BMX Bandit, but he was clearly outmatched. He provided no value to the team – and through no fault of his own. In fact, any utilization of his abilities was actually going to be counterproductive and slow down the rest of the team.
And that’s in a scenario where the second partner’s greatest sin was being superfluous – sort of the “best case” scenario of a bad situation. So imagine a truly bad partner. That person will cause arguments, decrease employee productivity and morale, make executive decisions that take the company in the wrong direction, and drain company resources.
So be selective with the people with whom you partner. Make sure they have skills and abilities that you do not (and that you could not simply hire out to an outside party). Ensure that they add to your productivity, not detract from it.
It’s hard to put a price on a good partner. And just as hard to quantify the cost of a bad one.
Any accounting, business, or tax advice contained in this communication, including attachments and enclosures, is not intended as a thorough, in-depth analysis of specific issues, nor a substitute for a formal opinion, nor is it sufficient to avoid tax-related penalties.