What You Should Ask Before Starting a Business Relationship

By Emma Rainville and Richard Parkin

When starting a business, many people exclusively focus on the product or services their business will provide. While the importance of product quality goes without saying, when more than one person starts a business, there’s something even more critical to consider – your relationship with your partner(s).

Being in a business partnership is almost like a marriage. It’s a huge commitment, and toxic business partnerships can quickly destroy a company – and affect you personally. 

In a partnership, you’re not just you. Your partner’s behavior will have a direct impact on your reputation. If your partner is engaging in unethical or illegal practices, at best, your reputation will take a hit, even if you didn’t know what was happening. There’s a single question you’ll hear again and again – “Why would I trust your judgment for my business when you didn’t make good decisions for yours?”.

Any effective business partnership requires one thing above all: a commitment to developing trust. Like any other kind of relationship, that means understanding your partner’s emotional needs. You must be able to disagree and debate without ego. You must be capable of being vulnerable and honest with each other.

If you don’t have that solid foundation of vulnerability, trust, and commitment, you’re not going to achieve the goals you set for your company. If there’s no healthy way to debate, there’s nothing to stop everything from going off the rails. 

But how do you go about building that foundation? Here is my and Travis’ personal journey

The Importance of Debate: A Personal Perspective

If you ask just about any of our clients, they’ll tell you that they have heard Travis and I vigorously debate each other, whether it’s been over different ideas of how to handle issues, different perspectives on roadblocks, or whatever challenges our clients face.

This is because Travis is looking at how decisions impact merchant accounts, compliance and finance. I am looking at how decisions impact marketing, operations, logistics and customer support. By making the other see the challenges from all sides we can come up with some outstanding solutions that have a high impact on solving the issues with a low negative impact on each department.

One of the things that Travis and I discussed early on is that when we can’t agree on something, and I mean anything, we just don’t do it. That’s right, when we’re not in 100% unity about something after talking it through, and hearing each other out, we simply don’t move forward on it.

We’ve had potential clients who could have been particularly profitable for us, but if one of us isn’t comfortable with their products or business practices, we simply don’t take them on. 

The fact that we’ve established that outcome makes debate far more effective. It transforms what could potentially become an argument into a conversation with set possibilities. The question becomes, “Do we take this client on?” rather than “Do we agree with this client’s perspective and approach?”

Side note on Travis: along with his expertise as a Merchant Account Broker, one of his many talents is that he and his wife are marriage coaches. Since in many ways, business partnerships are like a marriage, his insights have been unimaginably helpful in setting the terms for debate and discussion at Shockwave. Here’s the secret to building the foundation of trust and healthy debate that every business partnership needs:

Why Detail Counts when Starting a Business

From the time we first discussed starting a business to creating the foundation of Shockwave, we spent over a year walking through various models, possibilities, and approaches. Things got serious in August 2019, and that’s when we really started to structure out the what, how, who, and when.

Throughout the rest of August and September, Travis and I would get on phone calls to talk out just about every aspect of our “company.” At the time, to be honest, I thought that the level of what he wanted to talk through was pretty excessive – we planned out extremely sensitive subjects: our exit strategy, what would happen in the event of a death, what involvement children and spouses would or would not have, and at least a hundred other different scenarios. 

Looking backwards, everything always looks different. Every time there’s been an issue or a conflict, it’s never escalated beyond a healthy debate. There are never hard feelings or ego involved, no matter what differences of opinion we’ve had. Planning out every detail as an abstract meant we knew what the expectations were for real-world situations

I can not stress the importance of in-depth, high level planning enough. When you are in the middle of a conflict it is NOT the time to discuss how to resolve a difference in opinion. When you’ve got a fire to put out, it’s not the time to figure out who is responsible for it. Getting concrete answers for the important questions before there are any stakes involved means that it’s far easier to stick to the plan when it matters the most.

Ready for some new perspective on the importance of business partnerships? Tune in to the Shockwave podcast tomorrow (Thursday 14th), as we talk to Flightclub’s Glen Ledwell and copywriting expert Alex Cattoni about their experience with partnerships!

And if you’re ready to take your business to the next level, get in touch for a completely free expert consultation, covering everything from organizational structure to marketing operations.

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