It is normal for a business to go through challenging times, brought about by factors such as changes in the external environment, and entrepreneurs can find themselves struggling to keep their heads above water. When this happens, it is particularly exciting to be presented with a new business venture, often involving working in partnership with someone or some other business. Not only does this instil confidence in the mind of the entrepreneur but it also appears to present a lifeline to a business wading through muddy waters. Why then should entrepreneurs consider turning down such opportunities?
Too often we feel compelled to entertain business opportunities that do not truly fit our culture, conflict with our values, or evoke niggling feelings that it is not right for us. Business people who feel that they are in desperate situations often consider desperate measures which can ultimately be detrimental to the achievement of their long term goals. There are many examples of partnerships that go bad and an equal number that work out really well. Indeed I am one who advocates partnership working, for “two heads are better than one” and “one hand cannot clap”. But if the person proposing to partner with you is of dubious character or has values that conflict with yours, are you not setting yourself up for a headache? Indeed the headache could become the least of your worries should things turn sour.
In our daily lives we chose our friends. How different is it in business? If your business is your “baby” conceived and delivered to the world by you, why wouldn’t you care who befriends your child? There is an African proverb that says “show me your friend and I will show you your character” (others say “show me your friend and I will tell you who you are”). If you associate with an individual who has a bad reputation, will you not be perceived in a similar light? The French say: Bonne renommée vaut mieux que ceinture dorée. (A good name is worth more than a golden belt) which basically means: your reputation is more important than riches. The Jamaicans are more dramatic in their rendition - they say: “If you lie with dogs you rise with flea”.
In business you really do need to choose carefully the organisations with which you choose to partner. Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ when it doesn’t feel right. There may be synergies to be obtained by partnering for after all “good friends are better than pocket money” (Jamaican proverb) and “To be without a friend is to be poor indeed” (Tanzanian proverb). Indeed these liaisons may be mutually beneficial; just follow your intuition. You may choose to analyse the partnership considering factors such as: the potential benefits to both parties, a weakness that the partner could help to alleviate, the skills lacking in your organisation, competencies and contacts the partner has that could prove advantageous to you and importantly, their reputation. Could this be genuinely a win-win situation?
There is an old Chinese Proverb that says: “If you stand straight, do not fear a crooked shadow”. If however, the person partnering with you does not stand straight, you do have to fear that crooked shadow. The French gives us: A l'oeuvre, on connaît l'ouvrier (A carpenter is known by his chips). What do your chips look like now and what would they look like under the proposed partnership? How important is your image to you? What are your values and how far are you prepared to go?
I’ll give the last word to the Chinese who say “Do not use a hatchet to remove a fly from your friend's forehead”. Well, if the partnership goes bad you may find yourself doing just that; then you’ll stand to lose everything.
Not every opportunity is a great opportunity!