Ben and Jerry. Paul and John. Torvill and Dean.
History is full of famous partnerships – unions of two individuals who achieved more together than they possibly ever could have achieved on their own.
I’m not a psychologist, but it seems to me that the best partnerships are built on a magical combination of same, same but different.
They are relationships where two people are sufficiently similar to be able to get along yet also sufficiently different to complement each other’s abilities.
I recently met with the two founders of an exciting new business. They have survived the first couple of years and are looking to raise capital to take the next big step in their journey.
When I sat down with them what was particularly clear to me was that they were very similar yet very different people.
They’d met whilst working for a major corporate and had obviously hit it off.
She was the analytical type, with a background in the technical side of the business. As she spoke, you could almost see the spreadsheets and flow charts streaming through her mind.
He, on the other hand, was the creative thinker. He was the visionary in chief. He was the guy that drew the big picture. And she was the detail person who filled in all the gaps.
I think that most of these complementary partnerships just happen spontaneously. I think they are the result of good fortune rather than good design. But there is a lesson in them for anyone thinking of starting a business with a partner.
It’s kind of obvious that you want your partner to have different skills to yourself.
It is beneficial if one is an accountant and the other is a salesperson. It is beneficial if one is an IT guy and the other an experienced manager.
But I think it’s also important to look beyond simple training and experience to look at the types of people they are.
Is one a big picture person? It would be helpful if the other is detail oriented.
Is one partner irrepressibly optimistic? It might be helpful if the other is a little more circumspect.
- Analytical/Gut feel
There is no secret formula. And I am sure there are exceptions to every rule.
However, there is something intuitively powerful to me about two partners sitting on the metaphorical seesaw and it being pitched in perfect balance.