As successful business owners and corporate executives, many of us struggle with finding a good balance between being fierce leaders and taking the glory and profit of our hard work versus sharing the profit and the responsibility of the risk. Over the past few years, I have been involved in several initiatives, some small, some large, where some of the ventures died before they saw the light of the day, as people around the boardroom struggled with, well, sharing the pie!
In the beginning, the honeymoon-stage made everyone feel like the sharing was fine. However, as negotiations became tighter, you could feel the tension in the atmosphere, as the refinement of the deals and the desire to take it all became more tangible.
Let’s do the math: if I have a pie to share and this pie represents 100 pieces and you and I decide to split the pie in half, we would both have fifty pieces each, correct? If we then invited others to play with us and we decided to divide the pie into five equal parts, then each would take twenty pieces home. I’m working very hard now and would really prefer to get fifty or even 100 slices of this pie. If I will work twenty-four-seven either way, and I know I will take full responsibility, then I want the whole pie for me!
This is one of the hardest of dilemmas for business owners and for top executives, often restricting the potential for growth. Here are some suggestions that will hopefully assist you as you are making the big decision on whether to expand on your own project or to seek for cross-collaborative opportunities or business associations:
1. Know Thyself: I don’t mean to repeat myself, but some people love to play solo. That’s fine. If I hear, though: “I’ve had five partners and my business associations ended in legal trouble,” then I’d say, like in a marriage, associations may not be for you, unless you really want to work on making this association work. Examine what worked in the past and what didn’t work for you. Outline the lessons-learned, to have a better idea of what may work—or not—in the future.
2. Take your time to evaluate pros and cons: Why are you seeking for a partnership? Is your company going under and you need new blood? Are you exhausted from working twenty-four-seven and you would truly like to enjoy sharing the responsibility? Or do you love to have the opportunity to work hard on your own and have fun working with other high-accomplishing individuals? Is this a great time for you and your company to grow?
3. If you truly want to expand and move on to the next level, though, this may be a good time to think about how you could broaden your pie and find other talented collaborators who could complement your abilities, bringing value and fresh stamina to your venture. Use this as your barometer: although your associates should complement your capabilities, they should bring a comparable amount of energy and dedication in order for the partnership to work.
4. Do the Math: If you work on your own and your pie consists of 100 units, if you bring four additional associates who bring their own experience, knowledge and business acumen they may help expand the pie to, say, 1,000 units; then, you would have duplicated your whole asset in number of units! True, you are now sharing the pie with more people, but your piece of the pie has just doubled!
5. Court your alliances: Of course, get to know your potential associates and ensure that you do all the preliminary work to determine whether you will be able to work together. Check to see that they have a great track record and inquire about how their past associations worked for them: are they liked by past partners, employers, colleagues, associates, spouses and children? (I come from an Italian family and I am a woman, so I will look closely at how they treat their family, waiters, strangers and even their pets!)
Creating collaborative opportunities can grow your company exponentially. Think whether partnering with other talented individuals holds the key to your growth.