I am taking on a new business partner. What vows do I make?

Dear Aunty B,

Thank you so much for your start-up vows the other day: a great reminder even though I have been running my own business for three years by myself.

I am about to take on a new business partner – which is nerve-racking – and I am wondering how I will ensure this will be a successful relationship. What vows should I make before I walk down the aisle?




Dear Leon,

Congratulations on taking this big step! You will be pleased to hear there are only three vows in a successful partnership.

The first one is the real biggie:

Number 1: Don’t be greedy

Actually, I can barely bother going onto two and three. The number of businesses I have seen destroyed by greed is extraordinary.

The greed comes out in many forms. Primarily it involves one partner thinking only of himself/herself in any deal rather than about the partnership and the company.

The sad thing about that is they are often so self-obsessed they do not have the insight to understand they will end up with more in the long term if they are not greedy in the short term.

The worst situation is where one partner can see the future and the other partner can see today. Over the years I have asked many successful entrepreneurs the secret of their success with their business partners. They always say things like “make sure it is always win, win”, “always leave something on the table” and, more often than not, “Don’t be greedy”.

As soon as you feel you are in business with a partner who puts themselves first, you lose trust that they understand how to put the partnership first.

Number 2: Talk about everything and keep nothing secret

They are your business partner: Don’t lie, play games, be political, indulge in petty power struggles, hoard information, be sly or sleep with their husbands/wives. Do believe that business is tough and that you are far better off being in it together than on your own (or get out).

Number 3: Have goodwill and shut your mouth

There are times when the relationship will be tough. You might disagree on strategy or direction, staff members, IT spend – in fact, it is likely you will disagree more than agree!

But you will have clearly delineated the areas that your partner runs and what you run, and you will respect their autonomy over those areas. And like any successful marriage you will navigate through the difficult periods with goodwill.

You will shut your mouth when you want to say something nasty. And you will open it when you have constructive things to say.

And, of course, part of your vows is to make sure that you are in business with people who think the same way. Life is too short to be in partnership with greedy, sly people who are in it for themselves.

Be smart,

Your Aunty B

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