The Perfect Business Partner Manifesto (essential founder vows)

Being a good Business Partner to ensure success

I created this Business Partner Manifesto because starting a business is risky. One of the three biggest reasons for failure is through founder conflict. I’ve started several businesses myself and had my own share of founder issues. There is a lot you can do up front to prevent wasting your time trying to start a business that will go nowhere.

Any potential or current business partner should read and acknowledge this list. If you want to have a sustained and healthy relationship it’s worth reviewing regularly.

I don’t have a profound knowledge in making a marriage work. But I have been in plenty of businesses. The marriage vows are a set of rules with profound similarities to what you take on going into a business partnership.

You need to work together towards the same goal and know that you have each other’s backs. Teamwork is the recipe for success.

Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger
Buffet and Munger – In it for life

There is a good deal of thought that goes into entering any marriage (unless you’re in a certain part of the USA). Maybe there should be a good amount of thought before becoming business partners (unless you’re in a certain part of the USA [different part…]).

If your business partners aren’t working as hard as you, its not a partnership its a sinking ship 

 Julien Hall

Good Business Partner Vows

In marriage, people obsess about how to be the best partner they can be and how to select the best partner they can find. And once done they go through a lot of vows and seal the deal.

In business, we should spend more time working out how we can be the best business partner we can be for each other. And we should outline our own set of vows beyond just the Founders Agreement legalese. I mean a set of meaningful vows of how we show up and how we work together.

My Example Vows

  • I promise to be available every hour of every day if you need to talk
  • I promise to sacrifice personal goals for the good of the team
  • I promise to share all my weaknesses and doubts 
  • I promise to provide my full support and blind trust when you really want to do something
  • I promise to always look for the good in your decisions before offering an opinion
  • I promise to always question your actions and call you out when needed
  • I promise to be responsible for my actions
  • I promise to share your burdens when things are hard
  • I promise to never go to bed angry at you
  • I promise to learn and self-improve every day and to help you do likewise
  • I promise to only take out what I put in
  • I promise to take time out and give each other space at least once a month even when I don’t want to
  • I promise to take you out and do something special at least once a month
  • I promise to take our secrets to my grave
  • I promise to never read your texts
  • I promise to go to you first every time I have any doubts
  • I promise to never take you for granted and remind myself every day of what I should be grateful for
  • I promise to apologise for every snide remark
  • I promise to share the highs and the lows
  • I promise to focus all my energy dealing with big problems together. I will even close all my comms laptop, mobile etc.. and sit with you together for 1 hour to 1 month to hash it out
  • I promise to always pack the things you always forget
  • I promise to not eat your favourite things in the fridge (or buy more before it runs out)
  • I promise to encourage you to be healthier, yet not make you feel shit when you slip up
  • I promise to look after and love our family as it grows
  • I promise to commit fully to all of my other promises I will make here-after

It is rare to find a business partner who is selfless, if you are lucky it happens once in a lifetime 

Michael Eisner

Import Rules to Remember

Okay, business partnerships are of course very different to marriages in many ways. But there are lots of nuances where they are nearly the same but not quite and the difference is important. There are some important things to be aware of:

  • You can start and break partnerships with a lot less legal faff (in the early days). Consider this like dating. Try out ideas together before going all in.
    → Once you do commit then the break up can be as bad as a divorce
  • There is usually more than two of you in a business marriage.
    → But you all need to know you are equally committed
  • You can have multiple ‘business relationships’ at any point in time and tell your friends about it.
    → But you’re partners still might not be that happy about it.
  • You can enter a partnership with someone you have just met.
    → But at least one of you really needs to know the others well
  • It’s very normal for your first 5 business partnerships to fail.
    → But you should still reflect on why every time.
  • It’s completely fine and normal to enter a relationship with a family member.
    → But the risks when things go wrong are still high
  • You don’t need to invite all your friends and family to the day of your ‘wedding day’.
    → but you should absolutely do something special for your anniversary!
  • Entering into relationships with people twice your age is always totally fine.
    → But is it? really..?
  • You don’t need to ask your mother about it before starting.
    → But you totally should
  • You should cuddle only slightly less.
    → No buts
  • You should tell each other when fancy clothes make you look bad.
    → No buts wasting money on bad clothes isn’t an option
  • You absolutely shouldn’t be afraid to start early.
    → No buts, I highly encourage this

Coming together is a beginning;
Staying together is progress;
Working together is success.

Henry Ford
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Apple story could have been very different if Jobs hadn’t hurt Wozniak

Conclusion

Ultimately, a business partnership is a monumental set of promises and I believe these words have gone unspoken for a very long time.

If you are going to become business partners with anyone, I think you should read through these vows. Ask if these are the sorts of promises you can really make. Can you be good business partners for each other? Are you ready to make this sort of commitment? Is the other person ready?

If you have a partner you’ve been neglecting, now is the time to sort that out.

You can’t build a good business without a solid partnership at its core that can weather any storm. I hope this helps!


Related Reading

Before you go

  • If you think of any of your own Vows please add them below in the comments so I can amend
  • I run The Growth Mindset Podcast covering all things self-improvement with a heavy focus on tech start-up. If you enjoyed this you’ll certainly learn more by subscribing.

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