Just over a year ago now, business and life took an unexpected turn. Or I guess, rather a halt—redirect—restart. Through the lens of retrospect, the redirect and restart have been just what was meant for me and for Isogo. But at the time, the halt was jolting and even devastating. It was the halt of a partnership, well, an almost-partnership.
As someone whose most honest and reflective thoughts come through time alone inside my own head, I’ve done a good deal of thinking about this almost-partnership, that I was so sure was going to be. The thinking has lead me through some disappointment for sure, but also through to gratitude and humility. As people cautioned me, business partnerships are no joke. They are real. They are like marriage—a covenant, a comingling—and they can be just as messy as a marriage, too. A head-knowledge of the potential pitfalls did not insulate me from making some pretty significant mistakes along the way. So, as you might readily expect with an almost-marriage, an almost-partnership brings a series of lessons learned, of opportunities for growth and of a new way ahead. In retrospect, I could have avoided significant frustration had I understood these lessons.
Lesson 1: Words Mean Something, Define that Something.
This first one is pretty basic. As we had discussed the idea of partnership throughout our “courtship”, we were on cloud 9. Perhaps hesitant to start, but growing to understand each other and the pieces we could each offer and visions we cast. We were using the same words like “partnership” and “business.” We even talked about financial structure and other more delicate topics. But it turns out, the words meant different things to each of us. To me, “partnership” meant equality. To her, it depended on the circumstance. Same word, two totally different concepts, one 50-50 split, the other a different formula, probably both legitimate. So, it may seem rudimentary or unnecessary, but it’s worth it. Define terms before the “proposal.”
Lesson 2: Complementary Doesn’t Mean Compatible.
In workshops together, we used to joke that my Gallup Clifton StrengthsFinder 1-34 Talent Themes were her 34-1. I am an executor; she is a relational powerhouse. I can mark off a to-do list like nobody’s business; people flock to her like everybody’s business. We both hold strongly to core values that seem to be aligned. From all accounts, we were a set of complementary strengths, meant to partner. Our successful partnership would be proof that the Strengths concept works. But “on paper” is not enough. We have to be compatible in heart, vision, and perspective, too. If one is an abundant thinker, the other must be too. If one is charitable, the other must be too. Turns out our visions were not as compatible as our strengths were complementary.
Lesson 3: Timing is Everything.
I jumped the gun. We had an opportunity that I wanted to get in on; I wanted to add what I add to make it great. So instead of holding off and waiting to discuss our partnership plan at the pre-scheduled time, in a false sense of urgency, I just blurted it out over the phone in a rush one day. Bad idea. It wasn’t the right time, and I gave no background or explanation, just the end result. And like an overly zealous girlfriend wanting to tie the knot, well, i think that was the beginning of the end, when i think back. I was not sensitive to the right timing as I pushed ahead.
Lesson 4: Hold your Tongue, Hold your Heart.
What comes from our lips is evidence of what is in our hearts. As words of contempt dripped from my lips that day that all was not going as planned during our “partnership talk”, I realize there was not just hurt from rejection but another uglier force in there, too—pride. How could someone not see how awesome I was, how much she needed me? How much of the pie I deserved? Couldn’t she see I was the answer to take her business to meet her dreams for it? Ha. I seethe at myself even now as I put the thoughts to the page. What a boastful position I took. Peel it all back, to bare, and I was hurt. But what I wish is that i had held my tongue and let my heart catch up to reality before spitting that hurt and pride out onto my colleague and friend, never to be fully cleaned up, even with the toughest sponge. [As a side note, check out Episode 3 from the StartUp Podcast to get in on a conversation that was strikingly similar to ours!]
Lesson 5: An Almost is better than a Breakup.
As I was sitting in the car before we met, I was so certain that only an act of God could bring this partnership to pieces. It was so sure. I was so sure we were on the same page. So, the next two hours were shocking, yet not so shocking as it would have been should we have taken the plunge and only later recognized different values, tactics, vision, and only later had to agree to call it off, to “still be friends”. What a hurtful mess that would have been. Saved for sure.
So there it is…the true-ugly-beautiful lessons of a partnership not meant to be. Since then, we have gone our radically different ways. She an amazingly impactful trainer in her own unique niche, whose passion and compassion resonate with all she touches. And I a solo-preneur, making connections, creating for my clients, and loving every minute on my own.
[Hey, today my friend and colleague, Strengths guru extraordinaire, is hosting the second webinar in 12 month series about taking your Strengths knowledge and application to the next level–for individuals, managers, leaders. Today’s is about Partnerships! She’s over there providing some pretty amazing tools. Check it out at PassonsConsulting.com]
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