/ Entrepreneurship

I Got 99 Problems, But My Partners Ain’t One

By Owen Fuller, President of Qzzr.

This article was originally published in the Spring 2017 edition of Silicon Slopes Magazine.

77% of venture backed tech companies have more than one founder. That means that most people with entrepreneurial inclinations need to learn to play well with partners.

I kind of understood this when I launched my first company with friends. I’d definitely heard horror stories about partnerships gone wrong. “It’s like a bad marriage, but without the occasional make-up sex,” said one particularly candid mentor.

In all honesty, early on I didn’t think much about what made a great partnership. Times were good — a high point was when a local business coach described our executive team as a “celestial example.”

All that changed when I found myself in a partnership facing real turbulence for the first time… and my seat belt was not securely fastened. It was an opportunity to reflect deeply about what matters to me when it comes to a partnership. And more importantly, of course, what kind of partner I want to be myself.

What are your standards for a great partnership? Here are mine:

Belief

We believe in each other. And we celebrate our big wins as evidence that our belief is well-placed.

Desire

I once asked an older friend if he was truly glad that he married his wife many decades ago. He smiled and said, “Most days.” We should all want to be right where we are, building our company together… at least most of the time.

Candor

In our inner circle, we call it like we see it, even when that means having hard conversations. This comes from a place of caring about each other — and our business — so much that we won’t let fear or guilt or anything else get in the way of vulnerable communication. To borrow lines from the poet George Eliot, a great partner is “one to whom you can pour out the contents of your heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that gentle hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away.”

Champion

While we have frank conversations internally, externally we are each other’s biggest fans. If we can’t do that — while being honest — we better get together and get right.

Connection

We create systems that keep us connected in our fast-paced lives, both in and out of the office. Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder said it well, “Connectivity is not a tattoo. It’s something that washes off and you have to keep putting it back on.”

Clarity

We’re fully aligned when it comes to our raison d’être and current game plan. And like any good disciple of Lencioni, we work together to create, overcommunicate, and reinforce clarity with our team.

These ideas are the foundation of the awesome partnership that we have at Qzzr today. We’re far from perfect and don’t have it all figured out. But I can say that it’s working, and work has never been more fun.

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