There is an age old debate about whether or not leadership is learned or if people are born with it. I think the reason why it continues on as a lively debate is because it’s both. There is some natural ability to leading people, but there are surely ways to learn how to be a good, if not a better, leader.
Similarly, I think the dichotomy between nature and nurture applies to the success of a partnership.
3 years ago, Lee and I decided to take this crazy leap into gym ownership, a mere four months into our relationship.
Looking back on it, we’re both shocked that we came through the crucible of the early days alive and intact, but on the other hand, I also believe that it’s only because of that crucible that we are happy today. I explain more below.
There are two elements of partnership that can make or break it: natural compatibility and constantly nurturing it.
Don’t get the words “compatibility” and “similarity” mixed up. Oftentimes, the best indicator for compatibility in a partnership is the lack of similarity. They say opposites attract, and when it comes to a business partnership, it is no different.
Having complementary strengths can make two people with different skill sets come together to be even more powerful together.
I’ve talked to many other entrepreneurs about the dynamic between two partners, and it’s widely agreed that the most successful type of partnership is where one clearly falls into a “sales” role and the other the “ops” role.
- Both individuals can capitalize on their strengths and work in their respective zones of genius.
- Similarly, both people can outsource their weaknesses, reinforcing their zones of genius.
- There’s no confusion as to who is responsible for what. Each person has distinct roles and responsibilities, avoiding overlap and allowing each person to take that role and run with it.
- The major roles necessary to run a successful business are covered with these two “hats.”
That being said, it generally takes two people with personalities on opposite sides of the spectrum to fill these two very different roles.
General traits for the “sales” person include: extroverted, empathetic, relies on senses and feelings to determine how things are, and most importantly, relationship-driven.
General traits for the “ops” person include: introverted, detail-oriented, analytical, relies on data to get an objective pulse of the business, places the vision and end goals above all else, and concerns oneself with the integrity and structure of the systems within the business.
That being said, it isn’t just enough to have complementary skills. There are two caveats I have to include if you want maximize your compatibility:
1. Remove your ego.
You are not here to do everything and be the answer to everyone. You have your strengths, and you have your weaknesses. Do not get caught up in how terrible you are at your partner’s role. That’s a waste of time and it’s self-indulgent.
Oh, and this. Is. Why. You. Have. A. Partner.
Don’t let your ego or internal drama get in the way of the success you and your partner can achieve together.
2. Appreciate, highlight, and celebrate your differences.
Your differences are ultimately your combined strength, and recognizing that will allow your respective strengths to thrive.
Enjoy doing what you love doing, and enjoy seeing your partner kick ass and take names doing something you don’t do as well.
If you’re successful together, who cares?
Nurturing a Partnership
In learning how to be good partners, Lee and I have learned to run toward the uncomfortable. The uncomfortable has always made us stronger in the end. Here are the things that worked for us:
1. Communicate (Even If It’s Uncomfortable)
Distance can make the heart grow fonder, but there’s a difference between appreciating distance and relying on it. If you’re depending on distance to make a partnership or relationship palatable, there is an elephant in the room you need to address.
Where do you stand with needing space from your business partner?
Similarly, you need to get comfortable talking, authentically, with your partner and doing whatever it takes to stay on the same page.
Having the tough talks, being vulnerable and real with each other – all this creates a foundation where you don’t want to run from your partner, you want to work with them.
Let’s clear something up right now.
Yes, Lee and I are in a relationship. But if you are in a successful, synergistic, reciprocal business partnership with someone, it is not always pretty. It is not always calm and professional.
Whether you’re romantically involved or not, a business partnership is an unavoidably tight-knit endeavor. The highs come with the lows, and you will not achieve wild success together if you are not able to be uncomfortably real with each other.
Since Lee has quit his job, we’ve gotten a lot of questions about if we’re driving each other crazy being around each other all day. The answer is “NO.” The fuller answer is that not being around each other all day drives us crazy because it risks us not being on the same page.
We always communicate. Uncomfortable communication is a non-negotiable if we care about the integrity of our partnership and ultimately the success of the gym.
3. Push Limits (Even If It’s Uncomfortable)
No, I’m not suggesting to intentionally push each other’s buttons, because that’s childish.
If you’re a gym owner, there’s a good chance you’re at least middle class, have disposable income (or at least started with some), aren’t homeless, and have potable water and climate control.
In this day and age, and in our society, it’s easy to get comfortable.
Are you in a place where your gym is doing reasonably well and you can afford weekly happy hours, but deep down, you know your gym could be better?
So what’s going to take you to the next level?
If the gym can be described as “status quo,” you have to manufacture desperation within your own comfortable life to break this plateau and get ahead.
It’s just like lifting weights. Periodization and deloading aside, linear progression is required to get stronger.
You must constantly add stress.
Earlier this year, I challenged Lee to quit his job to focus on the gym.
Around the same time, Lee challenged me to single-handedly pay for our travel next year.
Who is pushing you? What is pushing you?
We all know standing water breeds mosquitoes, and the same goes with life. Make sure there’s always a current pushing you forward.
4. Trust One Another (Even If It’s Uncomfortable)
This might be one of the hardest things for two people to do, especially if they are invested in the outcome.
We all know that a positive, supportive environment is the most conducive to being successful and operating at your best.
Trust is the key to making that happen.
Trust each other to perform your respective roles to the best of your abilities.
You can “trust but verify;” however, do not micromanage your partner. Once you’ve agreed to your separate roles and responsibilities, you are implicitly buying off on your partner’s ability to fulfill his or her responsibilities.
Do not do it for them.
Do not tell them how to do it.
Do not nit-pick and critique unnecessarily.
Trust is the water and sunshine that will help your partner thrive in his or her role.
Now, this is an area that I’d love to get your thoughts on. Do you have a partner in running your gym? If so, what have been your observations and lessons over time?
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