I am a huge Game of Thrones fan! From the moment the head of the main character (or so I thought) fell, I knew this was not your average, predictable show. I will be bereft of my fix until next year so I’ve been re-watching old episodes and it occurred to me how much this show is a huge source of wisdom for those who run their businesses with others. Even if you’re not a superfan like me, read on and see what I mean.
- Know Who You’re Getting into Business With
The oh so handsome but oh so dumb Young Wolf thought that his alliance with the Freys would stand even though he abandoned his promise to marry one of them. Had he understood the deep and twisted heart of Walter Frey, he might not have taken his pregnant wife to eat at Frey’s castle.
Just as a failure to truly understand his “partner” had disastrous consequences for young Rob, so too not really knowing your business partner can end in the implosion of the business. If your potential partner is a relative stranger, you’ll want to do some background research- how long have they been active in the industry, have there been any public issues that bring into question their honesty or trustworthiness, do they have skin in the game- do they stand to lose if the business doesn’t work out.
Even when you go into business with a close friend or family member, knowing who they are socially is not the same as knowing how they’ll be in business. A happy, gregarious friend may be really anal about finances. A friend who you assume to be adventurous because she spends her weekends rock climbing and skydiving may be ultra conservative in investing in the business.
- Business can be Easy to Start, Hard to Maintain
For this lesson, we turn to the lady with a thousand names, Daenerys. With a huge army and fire-breathing pets, Daenerys swept into Mereen practically unchallenged. Ruling the city was entirely another matter and nearly broke her and her team.
When you start a business with someone else, it can be incredibly exciting. You spend hours and hours brainstorming and dreaming about your vision for the business. As the business grows and becomes more complicated, some of that early excitement may be lost, replaced by fights about which partner is doing more and who isn’t pulling her weight.
It’s important as you grow to maintain the excitement you started with. Regular reviews of your why can be a huge help. In my experience, most business partnerships break up over a lack of appreciation for what the other partner does, so it’s crucial to have clear, written expectations about what each person is responsible for and what are the consequences of repeated failures to live up to these expectations.
- Have an Exit Plan
My favourite character on this show is without a doubt, Arya. Deadly, revengeful little Arya. I love her so much I nearly named my daughter after her before thinking of how scary Arya would be in real life! Arya always has an exit plan. The best example of this is when she decided to enter the House of the Men with No Faces so as to learn how to be an effective assassin and make light work of her famous list. She knew the entire time that her goals and that of the House were not the same and that one day she would need to fight her way out. She planned, waited for the right moment and struck.
While I hope that you’ll never have to leave a business partnership in the same way that Arya departs a situation that no longer serves her, it is important to think about the scenarios in which the partnership may come to an end. Maybe it’s not making money anymore, maybe you’ve made so much you don’t have to work and you’d rather sell it, maybe you or your partner gets sick or has two more babies; maybe your partner decides to eschew materialism and go backpacking in Nepal. You get the point. Life happens and people’s priorities change.
It’s absolutely vital that the two of you have sat down and talked through what happens if one person has to or wants to leave the business before the other is ready. Once you’ve decided on this and all the other factors that make up your What Ifs, you need to put it in writing. A good Shareholder or Partnership Agreement is worth its weight in gold as even when things go wrong, you’ll have a clear guide created when the two of you liked each other a lot which you can help you salvage the business, the relationship or at least your sanity.
If you are thinking about entering into a business partnership, please visit our Happy Partnership page to learn more about how Andrea can help you negotiate exactly what your business partnership should look like.