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What is a partnership? By definition, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a partnership is two people joining together to form a legal relation existing between two or more persons contractually associated as joint principles in business.

Boring!! Well, what if I told you that the word partner has several meanings, one of them being that it’s one of the heavy timbers that strengthen a ship’s deck to support a mast. A ship is a vessel and a partner holds that vessel together - aka Partnership. Mind blown right, I honestly didn’t know that until I began researching and writing about 5 lessons to a strong partnership.

Let’s dive into the nitty gritty behind some of those lessons.

There are many different kinds of partnerships in business. Business partners who work to build a company from the bottom up, together. Established businesses taking on partners to fulfill a required need and groups of more than two people working together towards a common goal.

To have a successful business partnership it’s important to understand the foundation of the relationship and what direction both individuals intend to take the business.

Trust is the most important lesson when building a partnership with someone. It’s the glue that holds together a relationship of any magnitude, whether business or otherwise. I’m sure most of us know someone who we learned not to trust at some point in our lives. Imagine working with that person daily and relying on them to ensure they have your best interests in mind. I think not. We all know what happens when a partner loses trust in another. In terms of non-business, sometimes it leads to divorce, but for business relationships, it could mean a great deal more.

Open Communication & Listening
Second to trust, open communication in every partnership allows all parties to feel included in the decision making process. If open communication isn’t allowed in the very beginning, trust can be lost, and as we already mentioned, trust is the most important aspect to a strong partnership. Listening should come with the territory, but unfortunately, open communication doesn’t always include listening. If my partner told me I can talk to him about anything but isn’t actively listening when I speak, then the communication is more broken than it is open. Keep the focus on 100% active listening and speaking to ensure the lines don’t get blurred between active and passive communication.

Best Interests
It can’t be said enough that trust is important in every partnership, but so is keeping the best interests of all involved at the forefront of every decision. Imagine each partner having trust in one another but neither have the others best interest in mind. I can trust my partner to make dinner, but that doesn’t always mean he’s going to make what I like. He didn’t have my best interest in mind.

We can all benefit from the lesson of valuing each other. We place value on persons and things in business and home and sometimes that value is subpar. Feeling valued by others is extremely satisfying when making business decisions. Valued opinions, thoughts, and ideas makes a partnership very comfortable. Sometimes things are valued more than people and sometimes that thing is money. When money becomes more valued than the people working to make it, it’s time to reevaluate the first 3 lessons.

It’s about being neutral. Being in business requires strong partnerships to be successful. It could be the direct business partner, or the client partner, but in either case, remaining neutral is important when making bold decisions that could have great impact on the outcome. Playing favorites or utilizing only one fraction of the resources available to the business could have negative repercussions that might be difficult to bounce back from. I imagine this sounding familiar to parents who have multiple kids. Remaining neutral is the safest place for most parents to be in the family.

These aren’t the only lessons we can use to build strong partnership, but they are important to help build the foundation for a long lasting one. Do you remain neutral while valuing and trusting your business partners to communicate effectively with you and have your best interest in mind?