In our previous blog post I wrote about how to move from concept to early stage in a business. For us this has been, and continues to be, a process. One of the most important aspects of this process has been learning how to manage the partnership that started this business in the first place.

I often used to think that people exaggerated about how difficult partnerships could be. I used to inwardly roll my eyes at people who spoke about long term partnerships being like a marriage, and business partnerships being challenging and sometimes even think that it was because these people had something wrong with them. Well, let’s just say that I have been eating a huge amount of humble pie over the last year or so and it’s never tasted this good.

Partnerships take hard work and dedication. This is not news really, but the practicalities of working these things out and giving it time to develop, grow and mature is something that takes dedication, commitment to the cause, good communication and a lot of humour. I repeat, a LOT of humour.

Our partnership was relatively easy when we were in the idea phase, because we were working with ideas and didn’t have many of the ‘realities’ that come with moving into active business phase. Jason and I had been friends for a while before we started The Stellar Effect together and had also worked on one or two projects collaboratively. This meant that we had a level of trust already, and I think this has stood us in good stead for the many things we’ve had to overcome in more recent times.

One of the things that has been a stress on our partnership is that both of us have had other work commitments throughout the time that we have been building and operating Stellar. This has been a way that we have been able to grow the business from scratch, without finding investment or going into large amounts of debt - something that neither of us were keen on.

The reality of pioneering a new industry means it takes longer to figure certain things out, and so in order to give ourselves the space to do that we’ve had to juggle these other demands in our spare time. Running a business full time and doing bits and pieces of other work has meant that we’ve had to work hard at connecting and communicating, as we are not always in the same place at the same time.

Add to that mix the natural personality differences, different experience levels and ways of doing things and you’ve got a recipe for some interesting things… like it could be a delicious cake but if not taken care of, could become one of those baking disasters that you can kill someone with.

I am someone who has very strong opinions (read: can be a little bossy and has to work on being open to other opinions. An over-communicator with a million tabs open in my brain at any given moment and is driven nuts by having to discuss everything… you know what you need to do, so do it).

Jason on the other hand is in general someone who likes having agreement on everything before moving forward (read: needs to take more initiative sometimes and wants to discuss things before moving forward and doesn’t always communicate what’s going on in his head).

I am the lone wolf and he is the pack wolf (haha, I am chuckling as I type this because it is rather dramatic, but there is an element of truth I think). Fortunately, in this analogy we are both wolves and we really do make a good team. In fact, this would not work at all if we were the same. I can’t even imagine having another one of me to deal with in this space.

Here are some things that we’ve learned along our journey about partnership:

- Communicate all the time. It’s so important to make time to talk and make sure that you really understand each other. It’s essential to have those brave conversations and make sure that needs, expectations and assumptions are communicated on a regular basis. Learn how to do conflict well… don’t avoid it, embrace it and learn from it.

- Learn how your partner likes to work and where possible accommodate this.

- Work hard at always believing the best about the other person. Jason is very good at doing this (thank goodness).

- In start-up phase you generally are both doing everything… make sure that this is fairly distributed where possible. I made the mistake of taking on more than my fair share, and this led to Jason being disempowered in the partnership. It took some tough conversations but we’re so much further ahead now, and I’m learning to let go a bit more and know when my perfectionistic tendencies should rather just shut up.

- Keep going back to why you started the business in the first place. This will help you navigate the ups and downs of partnership.

- Do the work on yourself. Growing and developing your personal insight will help you recognise and take ownership of the parts of the relationship that you can control.

- Focus on what your partner is doing well and let them know… it’s easy to only focus on the negative, especially if you’re feeling stressed.

- Laugh together, it really does make a big difference.

Partnerships are not easy but are incredible when they work well, and this is definitely something we see value in. We are better together!

Thanks for stopping by and chat soon,