Can Business Partnerships Work?

12 August 2009 987 views 3 Comments

“This ride has been everything and more than we could ever have dreamed.” Brooks & Dunn

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Strong Business Partnership

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image credit: striatic

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Today I heard the unfortunate news that one of my favorite country music duos is going to breakup and pursue their own interests and careers.

For 20 years Brooks & Dunn

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were the ultimate country music powerhouse. They sold over 30 million records and toured the US every year with one of the biggest and most entertaining stage shows every produced.

Some of their hit country singles include:

Brand New Man

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Boot Scootin’ Boogie

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Hard Workin’ Man

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She’s Not the Cheatin’ Kind

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You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone

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My Maria

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He’s Got You

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Red Dirt Road

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Believe

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Their breakup announcement got me thinking a little about business partnerships.

There have certainly been some successful business ownership relationships, but there are also instances where a business partnerships have led to hard feelings between former friends, husbands & wives, brother, sisters, cousins, parents & kids, etc.

The fact is that when you go into business for yourself, you will encounter business partnerships in some form or another.

I think the recent news about Brooks & Dunn as well as some interesting thoughts on hunting can give us some insight into how to approach all business relationships.

Combining Talents to Form a Powerhouse

It’s kinda like a lost and found in a border town

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image credit: Beau B

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Brooks & Dunn

Kix and Ronnie were kicking around honky tonks and clubs around Nashville and surrounding areas for quite a few years before producer Tim Dubois put them together in 1990 at Arista Records Nashville.

Each had his own record label at sometime in the ‘80s. Each had their own singles released and Kix even had an album released on Capitol Records Nashville.

There is no doubt that these two guys were talented individuals.

What’s interesting is the fact that once these two talented individuals combined their talents as a duo, a business and creative partnership, they had enormous success right out of the gate with their first album on Arista.

The single Brand New Man

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was released in the spring of 1991 and the album of the same name followed later that summer.

The single was catchy as hell and sounded like no other songs on radio at the time. Both singers had distinct voices and while Ronnie’s voice is purely unique on country radio (plus he wore awesome aviators on that first album cover), Kix’s expressive nature puts him at the top of the game for showmanship and entertainment.

The two are explosive and eye-catching stage and records.

Today, their debut album has sold more than 6 million copies and the former struggling no-name country singers became overnight successes

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.

Subsequent albums and singles have been just as successful as the pair has never let up their work for the past twenty years.

It’s interesting to wonder if either of these two guys would have made it big individually or if it was the combining of their two talents that caused their success. It’s hard to know the former scenario and the success as a pair is difficult to deny.

Perhaps now we’ll have the pleasure of seeing each succeed individually and I hope for this to happen.

Hunting

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image credit: Lee Coursey

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Turkey calling is what I originally thought of when I thought about partnerships and the pastime of hunting.

But after kicking around the thought for a few minutes I also realized that partnerships in hunting could be anything from scouting, putting up tree stands, guiding, outfitting, dragging or packing, and many other forms of partnerships within the world of hunting.

A lot of skilled hunters go it alone when harvesting trophy game, but there are just as many or more instances of hunters helping each other to harvest trophy book animals.

Personally, I know I could never have had any hunting success without the help with scouting, stand skills, shooting skills and other hunting skills I learned from my Dad and others in the hunting camp I originally belonged to for ten years.

Today, I am confident going out to the woods on my own and attempting to harvest trophies, but I still find value in teaming up with another good hunter to increase the odds of success.

The truth with hunting is that a good partnership can lead to an increase in the chance of success come hunting season.

Your Business

When it comes to business there will be nobody as passionate about your own business like you.

If you have started a business on your own there is nobody that will understand the same vision you have for success.

For most people, however, there is a limit to the amount of resources such as time, money, and effort one individual can put into a business venture and it will only go so far without additional commitment business partnerships can provide.

In my observation and experience I’ve realized that the best chance for success with business ownership is to maintain 100% (or as close to 100% as possible) ownership while opening up to certain partnerships through expanding products, services, or workforce.

I’ve seen too many hairy situations where friends, family and other new business partnerships form with 50/50 or similar stake and things turn out bad to be convinced that it’s the best option.

Now there are exceptions to the ownership theory I have and you’re welcome to share your own in the comments below. My opinion is always evolving and I don’t mind being proven wrong.

The type of business partnership I have seen become most successful comes in the form of putting together talents that complement each other in ways that create a business entity that offers something truly unique that individually wouldn’t be possible.

The first example I can think of that hopefully fits this situation would be a successful hunter and businessman such as Bill Jordan and the television channels (or ownerships of the networks – Disney?) ESPN and The Outdoor Channel.

Bill Jordan brought his hunting expertise for harvesting trophy animals and creating camouflage patterns with the producers of television shows to create one of the most interesting hunting shows around.

I’ll leave the details out of that partnership, but it should be easy to see that in every business there are instances where the owners or managers look for expertise outside of their own to expand the venture successfully.

The tricky part is determining how to ensure the partnership’s success.

Differing Expectations, Goals, and Personalities

It’s taken every bit of strength that I have to keep a hurt look off of my face

B&D

One of the things that will often lead to stressful and strained business partnerships is differing expectations, goals, and personalities amongst the parties involved from the outset of the relationship.

I can’t speak for Kix and Ronnie, but I’m sure there were discussions initially between them and those at their label about expectations for the duo as well as the work ethic and personalities of each.

I mean, as talented individuals I’m sure neither wanted to risk what may have been their last chance at superstardom.

It may have also been an instance where they two got together and tried a few things in the studio and everything seemed to turn into magic so they ran with it and the rest fell into place. This would be the lucky outcome, but would not be the norm.

The positive thing to remember about Brooks and Dunn is that both wanted to be country superstars and the fact that both of the men had spent the better part of the previous decade trying to make it on his own was proof enough to each other that each was committed as the other when it came to creating music that would connect with the American audience in a big way.

No matter what the business venture, it’s imperative to find someone as passionate, with common expectations and goals and complementary personalities as you.

Hunting

One of the things I’ve found interesting over the years with hunting is the expectations and personalities of individual hunters.

When I was growing up, I hunted on a farm in Buffalo County, Wisconsin that was home to some big whitetail bucks. On the property we practiced Quality Deer Management meaning we typically only harvested bucks 3 ½ years or older. There always seemed to be exceptions over the years, but this was the general rule.

Throughout those years and now today when I hunt on other property I see other hunters who simply care about harvesting a deer each year for the venison or other reasons.

I’ve come to the personal conclusion that it’s up to the property owner to determine the proper management for his or her particular property.

The fact is that there are various expectations, goals, and personalities in the hunting world as well as the business world.

I always found it interesting that while certain people of the same beliefs typically congregate toward each other in the hunting world (QDM believer and QDM believer) there are always exceptions in certain camps and that always leads to some interesting discussion.

When hunting, it’s important for the property owner to have as full of understanding as possible with the hunters on the property to determine what is best for the management of the land and the game that inhabits it and the results expected.

Your Business

When it comes to your business it can be difficult to find someone or some business that shares the same expectations, goals, and has similar personality qualities as you.

As I mentioned earlier, you are the only one who cares fully about your business. You are the only one who truly shares your vision for the ultimate success of your venture.

The best advice I can share with you about business partnerships of any kind is to get out each other’s expectations, goals, and personality qualities as soon as possible.

You’re going to want to observe the personality of the person you’re working with.

It’s hard to question and judge someone you see as qualified and reputable, but it’s important to judge their personality as early as possible before getting too involved in a business relationship. The more you avoid judging personality the higher the chance of disappointment down the road.

Communicate early with anyone you’re thinking about forming a business partnership with and make sure you share the same or similar expectations and goals for the partnership.

Also make sure to judge the personality of the person you’re becoming involved with professionally.

It’s best for all parties involved if the understanding is reached early on concerning expected results and communication throughout the partnership.

Pride and Money

Getting nowhere, I’m tired of thinking/Guess I’ll do a little wishful dreaming

B&D

A wise man once asked me as it related to business, “How will this offer make me money?”

It was one of the most honest and simply questions I’ve ever heard anyone ever say.

There is no use in denying the fact that successful businesses make money.

If you don’t make a profit as a business you won’t find success.

Along with money there is the pride factor that goes along with success.

Most entrepreneurs I know want to be seen as successful by others. They want to feel the pride of knowing that they have overseen the growth and success of a business. If there is a partnership there is no doubt that it can, at times, be difficult to share pride and money.

I can only pass a guess at the fact that pride and money play a role in the breakup of Brooks & Dunn.

They’re two of my most favorite people in the music industry and I have nothing but respect, but I simply can’t shake the feeling that pride and money play a role.

If I try to put myself in their position (and I can really only attempt, but probably never really imagine) I’d want to see if I could prove to myself that I could become a success on “my own”.

It’s how both started – with the dream of becoming solo stars in the country world.

And I don’t doubt that each dreams of touring and selling records as solo artists in the future the same way they sell them today – only with 100% of the profit rather than 50%.

Pride and money don’t make anyone a bad person. It’s simply how we operate and it’s what fuels our dreams as entrepreneurs.

Hunting

With hunting there is not necessarily the money aspect, but there is certainly the pride aspect involving the harvesting of trophy game.

Hunters are always prideful when they are the ones to fire the shot that puts a trophy in the record book or puts a story in the memories of those involved.

The hunters I’ve come across always seem to be more apt to tell the stories of how they did individual scouting, sitting, standing, stalking, and ultimate harvesting of a nice animal versus telling the story of how they worked with other hunters to outsmart a trophy buck.

It’s the nature of humans I think to want to feel prideful of their own successes.

It’s part of what makes us have the drive to succeed while at the same time it can be a hindrance to our own growth.

Your Business

With business, the same want to grow individually rather than with a partner exists I believe.

I think pride and money play a big part in our drive to succeed as entrepreneurs.

Ultimately I think we all want to succeed on our own whether to prove to ourselves or to someone else.

When you’re entering into business ownership partnerships in particular that you understand that at some point pride and money will come into play and strain the relationship.

It’s common for business partners to buy out shares from others or for businesses (or bands) to breakup to pursue individual dreams.

It’s not wrong – it simply seems to be the way entrepreneurs operate.

Summary

Business partnerships come in all forms and they’re all tricky to deal with.

In the case of Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn, they turned struggling solo careers into a twenty year partnership that led each into successful careers beyond what either probably imagined at the outset of their business and creative relationship.

But twenty years later, they are going their separate ways for reasons only they know for sure and we can only guess.

There is also the interesting parallel with hunting involving expectations, goals, personality, pride and money. Hunters are individuals just like Brooks & Dunn and business owners so there will always be similar outcomes. It’s interesting to look at how the characteristics of hunters can relate to business owners. It may help us both understand how to improve as business owners when we can relate our experiences to our other passions such as hunting.

Don’t be afraid to enter relationships with your business, but be aware of the tendencies of partnerships and use them to the advantage of all parties involved.

Partnerships can lead to lots of success and if you’re struggling with your business maybe there is a partner you could team up with to take your business to the next level.

So after all this the question still stands – can business partnerships work?

Answer: Yes.

Just look at Brooks & Dunn.

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3 Comments »
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  • T. Michael Riddle
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    said:

    Cooperatives are definitely something which throws the odds into a category of and for higher success Dayne.

    Just take a look at Wolves, Coyotes, Hyenas etc. etc. and the success of the hunt when they cooperate together, and pull game down, the pack as a whole works together and then live another day to eat, exist and propagate.

    But the flip side is that it is the purest form of Communism and each individual “Knows” its role within the packs.
    You have an Alpha male and an Alpha Female, there are elderly aunts and uncles which can no longer effectively hunt, so they stay back at the den to look over and protect the young.
    And the most cruel part (at least to us modern humans) is how when the Alpha animal can no longer effectively lead, they will be killed either by a direct challenge, or the whole pack turns upon, and savagely eliminates them.
    (as a dog man myself,I could write volumes on the subject)

    The same rings true for we humans as well, albeit it with more civilized methods (by whose standards?) but the beginning, middle and end of our partnerships always have a single common theme running through them.
    And that is, each individual knows his strengths and weaknesses, and will use his strengths to help fortify the partnership.

    It is when an individual wants to expand upon what he perceives as a strong point outside of his appointed responsibilities, and that is when the real trouble starts.

    A simplified example would be when you get two talented individuals together to form a song writing partnership.
    One, is exceptional at lyrical content while the other is equally exceptional at writing the musical content of their songs.
    Both, are Alpha individuals and of course are very accomplished at either but, the current assigned duties are what makes the partnership work like a well oiled machine.

    It is when these individuals begin to flex their respective muscles in areas where the other has done quite well and really doesn’t need any help in doing what he does best.

    Sometimes these are overlapping responsibilities yes, but for the most part the Alpha in the lyrical department, needs to back off and let the Alpha in the musical department do what he does best, and of course, Visa Versa.
    It has worked wonderfully so far, so why change the formula!

    The next thing you know the partnership is in dire trouble and has lost it’s direction.
    Pride, as you say, plays an important role in the destruction of what was once a great partnership. Money, not so much, and especially when both have quite enough of it.

    This is why at the onset of their career they were known as only Brooks & Dunn,
    In the middle of their career they became known as “Kix” Brooks & “Ronnie” Dunn.
    Now at the end of their partnership they are (Very “Madonna” like) known as: Kix and Ronnie, so that a distinct separation and break from the old “Brooks & Dunn” is readily apparent.

    But we humans are best known for trying to fix things that are not broken in the first place now aren’t we :)

  • Dayne Shuda
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    (author)
    said:

    We do seem to always try to change working formulas, T. Michael.

    GREAT thoughts on packs, alphas, and I like the example of songwriting.

    The Pack nature of animals is something I hadn’t thought about before.

    I think you’re right that pride plays a larger role than money as most people find success through accomplishment rather than monetary volume or stuff accumulation.

    Always great insight from you T. Michael!

    Thanks again.

  • Kenny Mcgathy
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    said:

    Nice site. I love the work you put into your articles.