Five Secrets to Successful Business Partnerships

1/25/2019 6:00:00 AM

Jennifer Keough, Neil Zola, and David Isaac, co-founders of JND Legal Administration.


Having worked together for more than 30 years, our executive co-chairmen Neil Zola and David Isaac give insight to the foundation of a successful business partnership, originally featured on KIVO Daily.


Bill Gates & Paul Allen, William Proctor & James Gamble, Bill Hewitt & Dave Packard — these are just a few of the long-standing business partnerships that have redefined America’s business landscape. Aside from the iconic enterprises, these partnerships have produced, the question remains as to what made these successful collaborations persist?  

Working relationships can be challenging on many levels. Personalities may clash, unprofitable beginnings may hinder progress, and differing outlooks on the company vision may cause division. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 80 percent of new businesses survive their first year, leaving some to ponder the benefits of sole proprietorship over seeking partnership.

While there is no perfect recipe of qualifications that makes them prosperous, many successful partnerships have common attributes that assist in withstanding the ebb and flow of running a business. In working together as business partners for more than 30 years, and most recently as entrepreneurs launching a premier legal administration company, we have become well-versed in maintaining a mutually beneficial association and also uncovered some of the underlying elements as to what makes business partnerships not only stand the test of time but also help fuel the advancement of the company as a whole.  

1. Agree to disagree.

As cliché as this saying is, as long-time partners, we undoubtedly do not agree on everything. It is to be expected that our likes and dislikes are oftentimes polar opposites, but we continually share a common vision and outlook on the business, providing a well-rounded perspective on the assignment at hand.

Holding contrasting points of view allows a thorough analysis of initiatives set forth by the business, and strengthens the outcome received by your consumers and clients. Rather than simply “yes-ing” each other’s ideas, aim to challenge one another in a constructive manner with alternative approaches that will lead to innovation and dynamism.  

2. Capitalize on each other’s strengths.

With the consistent interaction of business partners, we have ample opportunity to study each other’s strengths and weaknesses. One of the keys to a successful partnership is to capitalize on each person’s strengths, knowing who should step into which role based on the knowledge and authority each partner holds.

In our current business, we ask each other to handle tasks and responsibilities where we know the other is more adept. In a strong partnership, when one person excels in a specific area, they should assume the lead, while enabling the other to pursue strategies where their expertise stands out.  

3. Build a playbook and anticipate your partner’s next move.

Like Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul Jabbar, or Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier, business partners can work best together by building a game plan and learning to anticipate each other’s next step. Developing a clear decision-making process that flows without hesitation will ensure efficiencies are actualized.

Similar to any noteworthy sports team duo, this level of cohesion cannot happen overnight. Given ample time and perpetual communication, you can easily gain a sense of what position your partner will take and how they will react in particular business situations.

4. Open communication is key.

Any relationship must have good communication to function, whether it is between business partners, spouses, or friends. To remain partners over the long haul, there should be forthright communication all the time.

As business partners for more than three decades, there is little left to be said that hasn’t already been expressed. When disagreements do arise, it is never a question of who is right and who is wrong. Rather, the compromise derives from whether this is collectively the right decision for our company.

5. Utilize shared networks for joint ventures.

Strong partnerships are reinforced with the sharing and collaboration of separate networks that can bring in business and relationships from different sources. One of the many reasons we have been successful as partners, and in growing our business from the ground up, is combining and leveraging our complimentary business relationships.

Continual networking, open communication, and mutual respect are fundamentals of any business partnership. Working together for the benefit of your company requires effort and perseverance to succeed.

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