(As published on Stuff on May 5, 2021 — READ HERE)
Now I haven’t been watching MAFS (Married at First Sight) but I gather a LOT of Kiwis have, going by casual conversations I’ve had with clients! It’s an interesting concept: matching people on paper, largely by who they say/think they are, and then pushing them headfirst into the commitment of marriage without so much as a cursory date to gauge interest. By the sounds of it, sometimes it works; sometimes it ends in fireworks.
The premise of MAFS can be a bit like going into a business partnership. In my experience, business partnerships often happen between couples (especially if one had the business pre them getting together), between friends, and between virtual strangers/business colleagues/peers who think they have what it takes to work together successfully on a project.
In the case of partners and friends working together, it’s usually more like a marriage after a long and steady courtship — they may not have worked together before but they know the other person quite well, in terms of their values, their style of communication, their strengths, aligned goals and so on. These are the Belinda and Patrick types — the ones who take it slow and steady, create a good knowledge of each other first, before they make a larger commitment. At Business Changing, we work with a lot of successful businesses who have partnerships that started in friendship or marriage and we see these working well in terms of them liking and having true respect for the other party, meaning they’re more willing to work with them and compromise, taking into consideration their thoughts and feelings because they care about them.
But for the business colleagues or peers who leap into bed together? Look, sometimes it can work to great success, but it comes with its own warning bells a la James and Jo or Liam and Georgia… It’s not uncommon to see people whose decisions are clouded by their overarching goal (to be successful; to launch this business; to do something new) that they ignore any warning signs or rush straight in without doing enough due diligence. So desperate are they to get a business off the ground, they don’t stop to ask themselves whether this is the best person to go into that venture with.
Before you do a business-style MAFS, consider these questions:
How much do you know about this person?
The way they like to work, how they communicate, how they treat people… Ask around — talk to people who have worked with them before. If you’re committed to working 60-hours a week to get the business soaring but for them it’s more about their work/life balance, you need to know now, before you start to work together and resentment builds.
Do your values align?
What is important to them? How do your ethics measure up when compared? Will this person be a good representative of a brand you’ll be proud of, or will you end up feeling compromised in the way you like to do business?
How much do you need them to go ahead with this business?
Will they bring much to the business? Are your skills complementary? Are they good at the skills you lack? Executing a successful business goes well beyond the initial idea…
How well do you get on?
Will you still like working with them in five years’ time? Ten years? You usually spend more time with your business partner than your actual partner so you need to like them!
What are their overall goals around business?
I’ve seen business relationships implode because one partner is gunning for global domination (time overseas looking for new markets, all money reinvested back into the business) while the other just wants to make a steady income and spend time with his family. I’ve seen one partner desperate to make it work while the other just used it as a feather in his cap, more focused on his main business. Take the time to explore where they want to take the business and see if that fits with your “why”.
What is the contracting out agreement if it doesn’t work out?
How would you value the business and how would you value each respective person’s contribution? It’s best to have an agreement on this before you go into business together. Think of it as your business pre-nup.
Unlike MAFS where a quick dissolution of marriage is fairly straightforward, if things turn sour in business, it’s not always that easy to separate from your business partner so take the time to get it right. Run through the questions before you sign any contract; think of them as pre-marriage counselling!
As with marriage, if you can get the right partnership, your chance of success in business quadruples and before you know it, you’ll be celebrating your tenth anniversary. As Patrick would say, “Holy moly, guacamole”.