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How many business partners are too many? Use ‘elevator’ rule

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Never have more partners than you can fit in an elevator. It’s a comment that seems like a joke but is deadly serious when you’re starting a business.

Too many partners will create conflicts you don’t need. Even the most bonded of partnerships will fray under the pressure of competing interests.

While it is important to have partners who each bring skills to the table, these choices must be made carefully and with an eye toward keeping the group a manageable size. Every partner you add increases the possibility of an interest that will stray from the good of the company.

What’s more, a big group of partners is simply difficult to manage. Good communication is key to a successful partnership, and when the partner group is too large, that communication becomes more complicated.

Here are three tips for working as partners successfully.

1. Schedule regular and open communication. A formal meeting once a month, either in person or at least by phone, is a must. Review the past month’s performance and talk to each other as owners, not as managers.

2. Clarify ownership versus executive. The owner might be who you are, but it’s not what you do. You can’t be an owner all day. Owners must recognize that if they are going to be involved in the day-to-day experience of the company, they can’t operate as owners. They must operate as their job titles dictate (CEO, CFO, etc.). Otherwise, they might steer the company away from its best path forward. Owners need to know their management roles and respect them.

3. Define roles and responsibilities. The most efficient way to run a company is to have employees assigned to specific tasks without overlap. This is true for partners and owners as well. The greater the definition of their roles, the less likely you are to have conflict.

Take this example from the U.S. military: If you have three professional snipers and their mission is to protect a certain area while under attack, how do they cover as much ground as possible? The answer is strict division of territory with no overlap.


Author: John Minahan, co-founder of a successful media company and author of The Business Mechanic: 9 Simple Ways To Improve Your Business.

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