Imagine this. It’s probably happened to you scores of times, as it just recently happened to me.
You’re driving on the expressway, tooling along with your cruise control set at 74mph (the maximum “safe from a ticket” speed). You pull up on a driver in the left lane. He’s going 60mph…well below the speed limit…riding along comfortably next to another car that’s traveling at the same speed. Neither car is pulling ahead…they’re just tracking each other. As you pull up on his tail, you shout to no one in particular, “don’t you know that the left hand lane is for passing!” You flick your lights…hoping that the dude will step on the gas and pull ahead of the car to his/her right and let you by. But they don’t react to your not so subtle message. And for miles you’re stuck…behind traffic that doesn’t want to pass or go as fast as you’d like. It doesn’t take long for you to be seething inside. You shout explatives. You flick your lights. You pull behind the car in the right hand lane, hoping that they’ll both get the message. Try as you might, neither of the cars in front of you will take the action necessary for you to pass. And, indeed, you can actually see the driver in the left lane smiling at you in his rear view mirror…knowing full well that he’s in control of you. How does this make you feel?
This is what happens in an unbalanced partnership. Partner A is comfortable traveling at a safe pace while Partner B wants to blow and go. Partner B becomes, over time, extremely frustrated that Partner A is controlling his pace. Partner A gets a level of satisfaction from slowing Partner B down. This chemistry is very prevalent in professional partnerships…and even some marriages. It’s an Rx for disaster.
If you’re the B partner…the guy doing 74 in the passing lane…you have to ask yourself an important question. This question is one that needs to be asked long before you sign on the dotted line of partnering. Unfortunately, in the heat of putting a deal together, the question is rarely raised. That question is…”am I…is he/she…partner material?”
If you’re the A partner…blithely rolling along at the speed limit or under…with a partner that wants to run…pushing, pushing, pushing…watch out. You may be holding back your partner…and the business…to your own ultimate detriment. You need to ask yourself “is holding back my partner from making the changes he wants to make in my own best interest?”
Partnerships are not about equality. Partnerships are not about control. Partnerships are about trust; about watching over each other; about providing additive value. Both partners must add value to the partnership such that the collection is worth more than the sum of its parts. Partners must deal with each other equitably (not necessarily equally…even if they’re equal partners from an ownership perspective). When that happens, partnerships and partnering works.
Is your partnership adding value to you? Are you adding value to your partnership? If you can’t say “yes” to each of these questions…it’s time to take a long walk in the woods about your relationship.