This is a guest blog written by Kristin White of Four Oh Seven. Thanks, Kristin!
When I started in the branding and design business, I was flying solo. And I was pretty dang happy about it.
I, like many bosses, wanted the freedom to work when I wanted, to be in control of the projects I took on, and as an introvert, I was really looking forward to a life that involved never changing out of my pajamas.
But it wasn’t long until I realized that going it alone might not be the best path for me. I was longing for someone to bounce ideas off of, share wins with, and be there to help pick up the pieces when things fell apart.
Enter the best decision ever for our business: a partner. And the search for finding one.
First, decide if a business partner is the right decision for you.
Because there is a big chance that you might not need to go as official as a business partner.
Creating a business partnership is the closest thing you can get to being married, without being married. You’re legally binding yourself to another person and doing taxes together (kind of). You’re living much of the day together. You will talk to each other more than you talk to your significant other.
That’s a big commitment.
There are other ways to partner up on projects that might lead to a much happier end result.
For example, we could have created a one-stop marketing shop with a copywriter, social media manager, and been a big team of business partners. But instead, we collaborate with these folks. Sometimes it’s a one-night stand and others it’s a long-term, but low-pressure commitment.
But if you’re like us, and a business partner just makes sense, it’s time to find the one!
And we don’t have a magical solution to finding this person.
Sometimes it’s a serendipitous moment. Sometimes you’ve known them forever. And other times, you put feelers out into the world and see if someone swipes right.
But you won’t know if you’ve found your perfect person until you go on a few dates.
The key to knowing if a business partnership is right for you is looking at your long-term goals.
While there are many, many conversations to be had if you’re thinking of going into business with someone, this is the biggie.
Most everything else can be wiggled with through compromise. Because in a partnership you will have to compromise.
But asking someone to compromise on their ultimate dreams and goals is a no-no.
Now, I’m not talking about that public speaking fear that you’re hoping to overcome with the help of a buddy. Or that greeting card line that you’re hoping to launch with your combined skills. I’m talking about the big picture stuff — life, money, missions, and legacies.
Let’s say that I wanted to grow an international design agency with hundreds of employees and dream clients, like Target or Anthropologie. While Lindsay was totally happy to have a studio of two and work with small business owners that are in their first few years of business.
If that was the case, our partnership would never work. Each business model requires totally different strategies to make the dream a reality.
This conversation requires a lot of questions and is going to need a lot of coffee and wine dates.
Luckily, after a lot of chatting, Lindsay Wright and I’s vision for what we wanted out of Four Oh Seven was the same.
So now, when we run into conflict, we remember our ultimate goal and the reason we created this business together. And things always seem to sort themselves out pretty easily from there.
If your goals align like the stars, then it’s time to give this thing a test run.
Let’s keep this marriage allusion going, shall we? If the whole dating thing goes well then it might just be time to take your relationship to the next level.
Consider this the engagement before the wedding.
Find a project (or two or three) that you can collaborate on before you enter a legal partnership.
While all that talk is important, things can change in action. By taking on a test project of sorts, you can work through kinks that your conversations together didn’t reveal.
And sorry to wreck the romance, but don’t forget to make a plan for divorce.
Before we made things officially official, we also made an exit plan for our partnership.
You’re going to disagree, fall down and rally constantly. It’s a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows. But if you establish a foundation of trust and integrity when the butterflies are still fluttering, you’re more likely to work together happily ever after.
What if someone has to walk away? Or if someone gets sick? What if someone dies? Where does the money go? What happens if you get sued?
Talking through what would happen if things break down can be a revealing conversation. Having to chat through very real and life-changing scenarios solidifies the weight of the partnership you’re about to enter.
And don’t be like Madonna. Get it all in writing.
We’ve been in business partner bliss for a few years now.
But it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows. Our life situations have changed, we’ve burned out on work, we’ve gotten annoyed with each other.
But we’ve happily overcome and I truly credit all of the conversations that we had before Four Oh Seven ever opened its doors.
I love my biz wife and I’m so happy that I found her.
Kristin White is one half of the branding duo at Four Oh Seven — a design studio working with passionate small business owners. Born in late 2014, Kristin and Lindsay joined forces to open the doors of Four Oh Seven, because of their belief in the power of collaboration. Together, they build strategic brands that help small business owners confidently share who they are and sell what they do. If you’d like to join their adventures — as friends, business partners, and creators, you can find them hanging out on Instagram.