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Building Effective and Fulfilling Business Partnerships

By: Tamara Schwarting

Creation is an act of collaboration. In the context of business, nothing that lasts — nothing of substance and power — was ever built by a single person. Creating a company that sustains the test of time requires a network of allies, advisors, and partners. Learning to select the right partners and, in turn, trusting them is vital for success.

When I set out to start a new business two years ago, I recognized I would not be able to do it alone. I had spent 20 years in corporate America and knew first-hand the value of relying on the expertise of others. Even with confidence in my concept and expertise in the industry, I was risking too much to depend solely on my knowledge and abilities.

Early in my career as a scientist, the depth of my expertise was the key to my success. But when I shifted to supply chain purchasing, this discipline was much more relational in nature. My results were only possible through the reliance and support of a fully cross-functional team. I couldn’t be successful on my own.

Like any relationship, business partnerships have to be cultivated over time. Partners need clear expectations. They need to know they are valued. Building trust over time becomes essential when complications and difficulties arise, and they always do.

It is common for entrepreneurs to express loneliness; “Nobody knows what it’s like to work this hard. No one truly understands my vision but me.” I have learned that this, in part, is a self-imposed condition seeded by the need to maintain a tight control on all aspects of the process. This mentality holds good people back from being great. When we allow ourselves to trust others and express that trust through transparent communication, we build a foundation for personal and professional growth and success.

At the end of the day, we don’t do business with other businesses, we do business with other people. My partners are handpicked not only for the quality of work but also for the way they function together. I seek to know and understand my partners as well as they know and understand me.

From the beginning, I establish what is most important to me in the relationship. With key partners, I share personal information about my background, my interests, and my personality profiles (Myers-Briggs, Enneagram, etc.). This is how I set the foundation of a relationship of mutual trust. This openness and honesty always pay off in the end — personally and professionally.

Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People’s Lives Better, Too) categories individuals into Obligers, Upholders, Questioners, and Rebels. Enneagram uses the typology of nine personality types and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® uses a four-letter type formula. Regardless of what method resonates with you, knowing more about your personality type and those around you can help you build successful trusting connections.

When building my team of partners, I assemble a diverse group of individuals in my inner circle. This allows me to rely on different individual strengths for specific phases of the project or the business. For my line of work, I look to fill the following roles:

    1. The Optimist: Always looks on the positive side and will generally downplay negative risks/attributes.
    2. The Realist: Seeks balance in providing guidance. The individuals can objectively provide both negative and positive perspective
    3. The Cynic: Quick to point out all the areas of concerns or “watch outs” for a project
    4. The Strategist: Big Picture, solutions-oriented. Best engaged in the early stages as they enjoy running scenarios
    5. The Doer: Tactical or transactional in nature and thrive in an environment where they can make lists and accomplish tasks.
    6. The Caregiver: Nurturing individuals who may not have a vested interest in my project or company but care about my holistic well-being.
    7. The Connector: These individuals get satisfaction from making introductions within their network and look for ways to leverage their knowledge to help others.

These roles are not mutually exclusive. It’s very common to have a given individual play multiple roles (i.e. The Optimistic Strategist or the Cynical Connector). Depending on your specific personality type you may need to surround yourself by a slightly different mix in your core team.

Regardless, keeping in mind being an entrepreneur does not necessitate forging a path alone. It would be impossible to do so. Instead, it’s important to surround ourselves with a network of partners to help weather the storm and share the fruits of success.

Tamara Schwarting is the CEO of 1628 LTD., a curated coworking community of independent professionals and the professionally independent in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is also an executive level consultant in business processes and supply chain purchasing.

Ellevate Network is a global women’s network: the essential resource for professional women who create, inspire and lead. Together, we #InvestInWomen.

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