Profitable and Enduring Partnerships

In our businesses, our work and our life, we form many partnerships to achieve outcomes and goals. Some are more formal partnerships than others, but they all represent elements in achieving success. We often don’t give much thought to what makes for a successful partnership nor develop these success traits as non-negotiable in every partnership. We should though, as the more we practice, refine and own these traits, the more we will achieve in business, work and life.


Active Knowledge Question:

Can you list the partnerships that you presently participate in? 


Partnerships Are Everywhere? 

Ask a businessperson to list out the partnerships they are in, and typically their mind turns to the legal form of partnership and those which their legal entity has signed up to. Ask an individual, and their mind turns to a person who is a life partner.

But the dynamic of partnerships is far wider and active than we typically, at first thoughts, consider. At any point of time, you are likely participating in many partnerships to varying degrees and of varying natures. 

In its simplest form, a partnership exists if you are working with someone. You will be seeking to achieve a common outcome, although each partner will likely be contributing something different and possibly taking away something different. Partners – two or more people working together to achieve an outcome.

 Why define partnerships so widely? Because we form partnerships in so many areas of our daily work and life but don’t see them as partnerships. We don’t give them the status that they deserve nor require to deliver what we really seek from them. We do not honour these connections as partnerships and therefore, do not approach them correctly or invest in them what they require to deliver what we seek.

Redefine the context of partnerships in everything that you do, and suddenly you will see them everywhere and hopefully change the way you engage. And then successes will begin to flourish everywhere.


What Makes For A Successful Partnership?

No matter what the nature of the partnership, there are eight traits, rules if you prefer, that must be present:

1. Equals

No matter the seniority, experience, qualifications, wealth etc. of any person coming together to form the partnership, everyone must see each other as equals. Every person is different, and every person will contribute something different, but they all should stand together on the same platform as equals.

Allow a sense of entitlement, privilege, better-than etc. to become present in a partnership and that partnership will be weakened. One will seek to take advantage of the other, contributions will deteriorate, and whatever that connection may have been able to produce will diminish.

2. Common Purpose

If you are coming together to achieve an outcome, then it must be an agreed outcome. What you contribute can vary, the exact nature of what you take away can vary, but the outcome you seek, that common purpose, must be agreed upon by all parties.

You see many ‘partnerships’ where the partners are present under false pretenses. They have signed onto a partnership with an individual agenda, and although they nod in agreement, they have no intention of contributing to the common purpose. 

3. Clarity

The roles and responsibilities of every person must be clear, understood and acknowledged freely and with enthusiasm by each person. In this way, you know everyone is on board as partners in this journey with a commitment to work together to make it happen.

Don’t allow one person to dictate the roles of others or pass off their responsibilities. Success will be dependent upon the combined talent and effort of everyone, and that can only be given freely, willingly and with passion. 

4. Balance

There exists a yin and yang flow within effective partnerships. There are seasons in which one party will contribute more and then another in which they may step back, and the others will step up. It is a natural flow and balance of effort and energy. The flow, up and down, is natural and healthy in partnerships. It is the combined strength of all partners that make it successful.

Everyone commences with a commitment to give their all, but you cannot all run at 150% every moment of every day as you will only all fall in a heap sooner or later. You work as a team supporting each other as is necessary, and you look for the yin/yang balance to achieve optimal and healthy performance.

5. Equity 

All partnerships must be founded in equity. Equity does not necessarily mean equal, but it certainly means fair. In what each contributes and in what each takes away, there must always be fairness. And that fairness must be open and honest with no hidden takeaways. Everyone should freely acknowledge that what they give, and take, is fair.

Connections formed through inequality and authority are typically not fair, and again they simply won’t produce their potential.

6. Trust

Trust and honesty go hand in hand. In any connection, partnership, you form there must exist trust and then honesty to underpin and uphold that trust. A trust that each partner is committed to doing their best to achieve each of the other seven points. And that they will be open and honest in all that occurs. Such honesty requires a vulnerability in that you are willing to step forward and declare when things are not going as planned, or you are being challenged and cannot cope, etc. You can only be vulnerable in relationships of trust.

The last thing you can possibly want is to be in partnerships where you cannot trust your partners to be open and honest. These are not uncommon and will occur when one or more of the other seven traits are lacking.

7. Effort

Successful partnerships require complete commitment from all its partners. A commitment to do their utmost in the fulfilment of their roles and responsibilities. There is the balance to be achieved but that yin/yang flow leads to the optimal effort by each person.

You cannot sit back and allow others to carry the bulk of the burden, that is not a partnership. You must always be willing to step up and step in. And that must be the attitude of everyone in the partnership. 

8. No Self Interest

A partnership does not allow for any self-interest. You cannot be in a partnership to take for yourself in priority to that of the partnership or your partners. Success is achieved by giving not taking. If equity, fairness, has been set correctly at the commencement, then the common purpose of the partnership always comes first.


Every connection you make with someone has the makings of a partnership. Is there a common purpose which we can share and work together to achieve? If so, can we bring to life the traits that will make this partnership worthy of our commitment? These traits are the eight listed above.

No matter how big or small the potential partnership, or its nature – business, work, life – you should assess its worthiness based upon these traits. You should mould these traits into your go-to approach to working with everyone and encourage them to do the same. And through this approach, you will suddenly find everything that you touch yield more success than you thought possible.

An entirely new level of performance.

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All the best in the success of your business,

Richard Shrapnel