Hello!! Jenny and Savannah here to kick off the first official "Make it Happen" series topic! We are SO excited about starting this series and sharing some important things we've learned over time. The first subject we will be covering is Business Partnership. We've been business partners since 2011 and have managed to keep a healthy partnership relationship AND a healthy friendship. We've certainly had our ups and downs, but we've learned how to work together and how to identify our strengths and weaknesses. We still have a lot of room for growth but love the challenge of being best friends and business partners.
For those of you who might not be 100% familiar with our story, let us share! We met during our freshman year of college. We immediately became friends but found that our friendship grew each semester. By junior and senior year, we were inseparable. We took all of our classes together and, although we had separate rooms, often took turns spending the night in each others' dorms. We worked together, studied together, did exciting things together, and eventually realized that we could spend hours upon hours together without feeling the need to be separated - except for every now and then. ;) We also quickly found in our friendship that we shared many of the same morals and values. This built a huge amount of trust in our friendship that also benefited our business partnership.
During our senior year, while taking a photography class together, we were assigned a "business plan" project. Sneakily, we requested to be partnered up for the project in our effort to make it a little easier, but what we discovered after turning it in is that this was something we could actually do! Run a business together. We both had dreams of running our own businesses in some form, but never entertained the idea of doing that together until our senior year. After graduation, Savannah started Maiedae as a side hobby to do after work and Jenny would often come to visit Atlanta to talk about what Maiedae could be in the future and how neat it would be to be business partners and how we hoped that one day Jenny could move to Atlanta. Well, several late night Starbucks meetings and one good dinner at Panera later, Jenny was led to quit her job, pack her bags, and make the big move to the city to become an official business partner of Maiedae and turn our dream into a reality. Over the past couple of years, we have been able to both quit our full time jobs and work for Maiedae full-time doing lifestyle blogging, planning amazing events like The Maiedae Mixer, and doing lots and lots of graphic design work for amazing people like you! Like any relationship, our business partnership has grown and matured over time. It is an important priority in our lives and we feel it necessary to pursue in order to make big things happen. Making the decision to go into a partnership isn't for everyone and if you decide to take the leap, it's important to choose that partner very carefully! Not to sound too cliche, but selecting a good business partner that is compatible with you is similar to finding a spouse! You will have a shared dream, responsibility, and you have to put in equal effort together.
IS A BUSINESS PARTNER RIGHT FOR YOU?
The story of how we became best friends and then business partners is a story we love *so* much. However, many people are surprised that it actually worked out and/or are still waiting for us to realize that it's doomed to fail. When we first began telling people that we were going into business with our best friend, they would tell us stories about broken friendships and destroyed businesses that made us feel overwhelmed. Now, they are definitely right about the fact that most of the time it's not very smart to go into business with your best friend. However, we felt so discouraged and misunderstood by them.
What they didn't know is how well we worked together. We have a very rare relationship. Yes, we are best friends, but we can spend 3 weeks straight with each other and not get tired of the others' company. In college, we spent a whole semester with each other - almost 24 hours every day (except on date night, Jon & Savannah would go on a date without Jenny, of course) - taking all the same classes, hanging out as friends, and sleeping in the same room as roommates. We are also both very creative and extremely "type A" - which makes for a great business relationship. Many creatives are not "type A", so the fact that we are both so organized and punctual makes it easier on both of us. We don't have to worry about the other "slacking" because we are both ambitious, driven, and over-achievers. We are both no-nonsense types of people - we value relationships over being "right" and the fact that we love being around each other doesn't hurt either.
Many of you may be wondering if a business partner is the right choice for you. Maybe you have someone in mind - a friend, relative, or someone you've just recently been acquainted with - and you're not sure if you should move the business aspect forward in that relationship. We're not going to tell you, "Don't choose your best friend or your husband/wife..." - because each partnership is very different. It may be the best decision for you. But, like many other commitments in life, we would suggest to take this one very seriously. A business partner relationship is not something you "dive into" lightly.
Some questions to ask yourself before deciding to pursue a business partner might be:
Does the workload exceed what I am able to do by myself on a daily basis?
Can extra tasks be delegated to a helper instead?
Are you the type of person that works well with others and can give up complete control?
Do you prefer having creative control and making all the calls?
Depending on what your answers to the above questions are, a business partner might be a great decision for you, especially if you are looking for someone to share responsibility and grow the business. If you find that you would still like creative control and to call all the shots, you could consider hiring an employee or contractor to assist with certain tasks. You could also consider having an intern in order to not only help you out but teach a trade. OR maybe your business is running smoothly with just you! To figure this out, it's important to discern your business needs, your personality and your responsibilities.
CHOOSING A BUSINESS PARTNER
If after thinking through the questions above you decide that a business partner is what your business needs, we would suggest you try out the following to decide who would be the best business partner choice for you: invite them to work alongside you for at least 3 months. Not as an official business partner, but invite them to work with you on a project or aspect of your business. Maybe you are a photographer - ask them to join you in not only shooting weddings, but also in the day to day of the business. Why 3 months or more? We believe in this duration of time, you will be able to notice most of the things that make a successful partnership relationship:
Are they a loyal and diligent worker?
Do your personalities work well together?
Do they have an entrepreneurial spirit?
Are they committed to your company / vision?
Do you have an open and honest relationship?
Can you trust them?
It's always been extremely important to us to have people on the Maiedae team that are raving fans and fully support the business. We want people who are passionate about their job and what they do on a day to day basis. This rule helped us in deciding if it would be best to go into business together AND who to hire as an assistant.
Are you having trouble finding good business partner candidates? We suggest taking a look in your friend group, in your acquaintance group, post on your blog or site that you are interviewing, approach someone who is already in a similar business and works alone and ask trusted friends for good references. The idea of hiring a helper and then asking them to become a business partner if things go well is a GREAT idea for finding a good fit if you don't know that person well or know how you work together.
TIPS ON HAVING A SUCCESSFUL PARTNERSHIP RELATIONSHIP
As described earlier, a business partner relationship is very similar to other important relationships in your life. You have to work at it to actually make it work. Even if you choose the perfect business partner, the relationship won't succeed without hard work from both of you. Here are a few tips we've learned in order to have a successful partnership relationship:
1// Communicate - You always hear - "Communication is key!" - well, it's true! Communication is the reason that most relationships fail. Why? Because good communication is extremely important. You have to be willing to open up, you have to be willing to stand firm in your opinion, and you have to be willing to face the problem instead of ignoring it. You have to be able to do it without your ego, pride, and selfishness getting in the way. Good communication requires commitment, humility, sacrifice, and self-confidence - pretty much everything that we struggle with as people. So what do we do instead? We ignore or avoid the problem and/or person - "It's their problem, not ours." We let the other person "run us over" - whatever they want just to make it better again. Or, we force our opinion and "right-ness" - destroying them with our words so that there isn't a problem anymore. And, although this happens in all our relationships, in order to have a successful one, we need to learn to communicate well.
When you don't communicate, anxiety builds, resentment is harbored, and problems are magnified. When you decide to work towards good communication, you're able to get more accomplished as a team. Your mind is free to dream of the future - because you actually have hope of a future. You're less weighed down by the problems in the relationship and your creativity can be wild and free. And you're happy, fulfilled, excited, and at peace. :)
2// Get to Know Each Other - Communicating with and understanding your business partner can be difficult if you don't truly know them. Simply understanding where they come from can make a huge difference when you're working together. But, also knowing what they are passionate about, their goals for the future, their strengths, what drives them in life, and even their weaknesses can help you to build a better and more graceful relationship. For example, Jenny tends to take on way too much at once. Savannah knows this, so she is better able to help Jenny by asking her about her workload and the reality of what she can actually accomplish. On the opposite end, Savannah struggles with taking breaks, Jenny realizes this is a good thing for Savannah and encourages her to step away from a project and do something different in order to keep inspiration flowing. When we have a miscommunication, it's easier to "diagnose" the real problem behind it when we know ourselves and each other so well.
Also, the benefit of getting to know each other is that you inadvertently get to know yourself in the process. Explaining your strengths and passions to someone else means that you have to know what they are. And maybe you even connect some missing dots in the process. As you communicate, you will continually have what we like to call "introspective learning moments" - where you realize why you're doing what you're doing and it changes your behavior or perspective. I know this may seem like a lot of unnecessary touchy-feely stuff, but we promise that knowing yourself and knowing your business partner will make a huge difference in how you communicate and relate to one another. And, like we discussed earlier, communication is key.
Some of our favorite resources for helping you understand people and create language around your strengths is Strengths Finder, The Enneagram, and Myers-Briggs. These tools create great conversation and understanding around individuals and is FANTASTIC for seeing how a team can work together.
3// Define Your Roles - Defining your roles as business partners is another key to success. Not only does it help to make sure everything is getting done, but it relieves stress on each partner. When roles are clearly defined, it's easy to know what needs to be done and whose responsibility it is to do it. To define your roles, we suggest you sit down with your business partner and write out every aspect of the business you can think of - finances, marketing, social media, blogging, etc. After you write out all the things that make up your business, write out subcategories under each. For example, under "Finances" you might have: balance the budget on a weekly basis, communicate updates to your business partner, write paychecks, create goals for projected budget & growth, handle receipts, collect tax information, set up a good bank account, 401K plans, set up meetings with your accountant, approve budgets for events, and other things. Once you have written out the action items under each category, talk about which one of you would be best to be the point person for each category. This doesn't mean that person has to DO every action item under that category, but they need to make sure that each item gets done. They lead the team in that responsibility and are the point person. Play off of your strengths! If one of you is better with finances than the other, consider making them the point person.
4// Pull Your Weight - This one is simple: don't be the dead weight in the business. Be responsible. Be on time. And admit when you're slacking. A good business partner strives to be diligent and is accountable to their business partner. Just because you have a partner doesn't mean you can slack off every now and then.
5// Respectfully Disagree - Don't be afraid to disagree on an idea or decision. You should both feel free to express your ideas and opinions openly. However, doing it in a respectful way is key. If Savannah decided that she wanted Maiedae to turn into a kayaking business, Jenny wouldn't shout at her "What the *!#$ are you thinking? That's the dumbest idea I've ever heard!!" She would kindly say, "Savannah, you've had many a great idea, however, I do not believe that a kayaking business is the best option for us at this time. Let's talk about why you are wanting us to move away from our current business structure." Always treat your business partner with respect and their concerns and opinions with legitimacy.
6// Affirm & Encourage - No one likes a "Negative Nancy." Be the first to affirm and encourage the good qualities and successes you see in the business and in your partner. Sometimes, business partnerships tend to lean towards becoming a competition. Don't be distracted by this! It's not a competition - you're business partners. You are in this together. So encourage the person next to you - help them to become more confident and succeed in their goals and projects. Besides it being the right thing to do, why wouldn't you want them to succeed? If they succeed, you succeed!
7// Take Breaks - Every relationship needs air to breathe sometimes. Although we can spend a ridiculous amount of time together, it's good for us to spend time apart. We need to have other friendships, other hobbies, time with our spouses, and time alone. So make sure that you are spending time apart from your business partner. Also, take breaks together. We spend an hour each week doing something inspirational - we might visit a local coffee shop, do a fun and easy DIY, take a walk, or spend an hour on Pinterest. And we eat lunch at home every day, except on Fridays we go out to lunch. Talk about balancing your time together and make sure you're taking breaks - from each other and with each other!
We hope this information has been helpful in assisting you through the decision of having a business partner! It's personally been one of our favorite things about our business and it's such an honor working side by side with someone we truly respect and care for. If you have additional tips, resources or questions about this topic, please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section below!! We will be sure to answer every question we can! If you have another topic idea that you would like us to cover, please leave that, too!!