If you know anything about battle, you know that a place of safety in a time of battle is a foxhole. A foxhole is a shallow hole dug (or found) by one or more soldiers in order to get out of the way of direct fire. When you are in the foxhole, the person with you is essential to you walking out alive. Their race, religion or gender doesn’t matter. All you desire is this person be capable of using their gifts, training and equipment to cover your butt and theirs.
Starting out in business with a partner has it’s benefits and drawbacks. Having a partner with gifts that compliment yours is indeed a gift. Having someone to partner with you in handling the day-to-day activities is a blessing. Like battle, a startup business will face many obstacles. Staying close, discussing the tactics to survive each day, is essential for partners in a startup. The foxhole is a safe place to be because you and your business partner are close and can help/encourage one another each day.
What I have found in my startups, as well as those I consult to, is this – While things are tough and in startup mode, partners generally get along. They cover for each other just like soldiers in battle. While one does one thing, the other does another. They compliment each other. In battle, one soldier sleeps while another takes watch. However, when things start going well, cash-flow is good and life is good, partners start to separate.
In my very first startup (of 6), I had a business partner. In our first three years, we were in that foxhole. While we found success at the end of year one, it took all of year two to figure out how to manage the sales that came in from several big contracts. We were closely working together each day to make our company a success. Once we figured out our processes and understood the main part of Collin’s Hedgehog Concept, the economic engine, the company grew. Guess what else grew, two partners grew apart. My partner was a good fifteen years older than me. When we made money, he felt it was time to enjoy life more. I wanted to keep the money in the company so that we could continue to grow the company. In the next few years, the company grew to a point where our ability to get along stifled the company’s potential. The company began to stagnate. When we couldn’t agree how to get out of business with each other, we decided to just sell it. Selling the company was freedom for me to move on. Yes, I did have to go work for the acquiring company, running Mergers & Acquisition, however, it freed me from the bondage of a bad relationship.
As you start your new business with a partner, do yourself a favor. Sit down and determine how you two (or more) will get out of business with each other. Trust me, it will happen sometime down the line, either in success or failure. It is too easy and cheap to get into business with a partner, and it is very costly and painful to get out of business with a partner. Enjoy the foxhole while you are in it. Just remember what could happen when you exit.
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