Business partnerships present a great challenge for many people. Even though the idea of sharing responsibilities can seem attractive, the reality of everything that a partnership truly involves also raises a lot of fears. “Will this partnership really work?” “How can two people actually run the business?” “Will I end up doing all the work?” These are just some of the questions that can worry each of the people involved, and, if not addressed, can end up destroying their common dream.

The Toltec teachings show how all of life revolves around relationships. Therefore, when we consider partnerships, the first issue is the relationship between the parties. If this is always kept in mind, many of the pitfalls can be avoided.

How does this work in practice? Take the example of John and Peter. John is a builder, with a lot of experience in building houses, while Peter is an engineer, with skills in draughting and finance. They are successful in their own right, but would like to expand their businesses by offering a comprehensive service. Both see a partnership as a good way to grow and to use their skills in a complementary fashion. However, having seen many promising partnerships flounder through a lack of focus, goals or clear leadership, they are also wary.

What else do each want out of the partnership? Both John and Peter want their business to prosper, but they are also keen for the partnership to grow upon a solid foundation of trust and mutual support that will deepen as their business grows.

Because it is the long-term relationship that is important to them, John and Peter decide to look at their partnership in a new way. This new way involves looking afresh at their business and defining for themselves what they believe is the purpose of their business. Then they will need to look at what, for them, is the meaning that lies within that purpose. Purpose and meaning – these are two vital ingredients that determine whether anything in our lives becomes a mission, or whether it brings us joy and fulfilment. After some consideration and discussion, John and Peter conclude that the purpose of the business is to support them financially, while for them, the meaning lies in the heart which they both can put into making the partnership.

Keeping it simple, the question each has to answer is: “Do we just want to make money? Or do we want to use earning our keep as an opportunity to build meaningful relationships?” From their own experience both John and Peter know that focussing on making money alone soon results in everything becoming a heartless burden. On the other hand, looking at the business as providing the framework for building meaningful relationships will enable them to embark upon a new journey that they have chosen to fill with heart.

Life is a system of relationships. Therefore, any career or business is firstly about relationships in general, but also, more specifically, about that particular relationship with the world which provides you with your livelihood.

Looking at the world around them, John and Peter know that if the business relationship is going to meet their needs, in terms of succeeding, it must also meet the needs of its clients – for any relationship must be reciprocal in order for it to be a relationship.

In addition to this, when it comes to looking within the business itself, it is also necessary to take the other primary relationships into account. These are, first and foremost, the relationship that we each have with ourselves. This is vital, for if we do not know how to relate fully to ourselves, we cannot relate in any effective or meaningful way to another.

The second relationship is that between the partners or employees in a business. The third is how this important relationship is being reflected in the relationship between the partnership/business and its clients.

By approaching the partnership in this way, John and Peter will always find the heart in what they will be doing together, for instead of simply seeing the business as just providing their bread and butter, and instead of having vague and unexpressed expectations, they are sowing the seeds for a future of flexibility, of growth, and of joy, through the process of learning to build meaningful relationships.

Another issue that plagues many partnerships, and which had surfaced often in their discussions, was “who would be the boss in their partnership – John or Peter?”

Having decided that their focus is on developing relationships, John and Peter saw that a partnership is different to a normal employer/employee relationship, in that it concerns two people with a mutual love for what they are doing. Therefore, in their partnership, John and Peter will not be looking at who is boss, but at the joint responsibility that they share, and then ascertaining who will provide the lead in terms of that joint responsibility in any given area. Who provides the lead in any given activity may depend on many things, including the experience and the technical expertise of each. For example, John will provide the lead when it comes to the construction side, while Peter will provide the lead in relation to looking for new business and implementing financial controls. The important point for them being that providing the lead in a partnership does not equate with being boss.

In all of this, the overall focus of John and Peter will remain that of using their joint venture as a means to build a relationship with themselves, with each other, and with the world around them. In this way they will be choosing for a partnership and a way of life that is based around quality and real opportunities for growth and fulfilment. Their business will still need to support them, but it will do so in a way that has for them, meaning and heart. In this way too, John and Peter make their business and their dreams real.

Relevant Courses:

Journey of Adjustment – Relationships in General

Théun Mares
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