Running a business is hard. That’s why a lot of folks decide to partner up and start a business with someone else. There are some definite advantages to working with a partner: two heads are better than one, and partnerships often have access to better resources and talent that a solo founder might not have. But there are disadvantages, too: there’s extra coordination and communication involved, and conflict between partners resonates throughout the whole team.
Besides that, it’s just plain rare to find two people whose values are in alignment. Even if partners start out looking for the same things in life and having the same goals regarding the business, only providence can keep all those things aligned over ten or twenty years (or more)!
With this in mind, if you are going to attempt a partnership, it’s imperative that you have regular times where you’re communicating — not just about business — but about all of life: values, lifestyle, goals, satisfaction. I usually recommend a weekly partner meeting — a standing breakfast or lunch appointment to talk about the business.
What if you are married to your business partner? (Yes, this happens). Do you still need a partner’s meeting? I think you need it even more. If you are married you don’t want every meal and every car ride to be a partner’s meeting! By establishing a regular business check-in then you can table business discussions during the rest of your life!
When I mention this to business partners they look at me funny. “What would we talk about every week?”
Here’s my weekly partner meeting agenda:
1. Check in with one another first.
What are you enjoying most right now? What’s frustrating? Don’t keep this to “just business”; it’s good to know what’s going on in your whole life. Whatever you are experiencing when you are outside of the office is part of what you are bringing to work! There is almost no one in your life who knows what you are going through in the way that your business partner will, so open up!
2. Take a quick look at the numbers.
Look at the P&L and Balance Sheet once a month, but have a different set of Key Performance Indicators (KPI) that you look at on each of the other weeks. Leads and closing ratio, customer satisfaction, late orders, product quality; whatever the KPI for your company are, rotate through them so that you are focusing on a different area of the business every week. It gives you a chance to “check in” with the numbers and time to “dig in” if they aren’t going in the right direction.
3. Key Initiatives
What are the big improvements, or big changes your organization is focused on? How are they going? What needs to be done to keep them on track? Don’t review them all every week; you could rotate through these also. Keep in mind, these key initiatives aren’t “new ideas” (that comes next). These are the changes that you and your team have committed to — which are critical for the success of your business. Keep tabs on them, and work together to support their success.
In most businesses, people are our biggest expense, and our biggest asset. Take time to look at your top performers — what can you do to help them to improve? What are each of you seeing about your people that might be different? Again, don’t look at everyone each week — go department-by-department — looking at a few people each week.
5. What’s on the Horizon
This is a chance to look out further — beyond where and how the business is operating today — toward the horizon. What do you see? Do you see things that worry you? Do you see opportunities? This is a time to look at those things together — to form a common vision of what the future holds. This is not a time to create new initiatives (you can create many more initiatives than your team can execute on), but it is a chance to cultivate a shared perspective about what’s coming next. So take this time to educate yourselves, debate, and share your points of view. It will help you to clarify your priorities for the future, after your current initiatives are closed out.
On any given week you might spend more time on one aspect of this agenda than another, and that’s fine. There will be an ebb and flow in terms of what you focus on! But don’t go a week without checking in together, and don’t go several weeks without talking about any one of these points.
The goal of partner meetings is for all of you to share a common set of data about what’s working and what’s not working in your business. As I’m fond of saying, “Intelligent people, given the same set of data, generally come to the same conclusions.” By staying in sync about what each of you are seeing in the business — the numbers, the people, and the future — both of you will stay more closely aligned about what needs to be done next. That is, as long as you also keep your passions, dreams and goals out in the open too.
How do you stay on the same page with your business partner?
Photo credit: Death to Stock Photo