Yogi Bear had a partner. So did Starsky. Fred was almost never without Barney.
Yet somehow we've come to embrace this idea of the Lone Ranger (who had a partner).
Silly, isn't it?
I'd tell you a story about the failure of a team because the superstar tried to do it all, without any partners, but we've all seen the movies.
So instead, let's dig into it straight away.
YOU NEED A PARTNER BECAUSE YOU HAVE BLIND SPOTS.
On cars there are rearview mirrors. You've likely seen them before. When I was growing up, I didn't understand what they were for. And all my parents kept saying was that they helped with “blind spots.”
I had no idea what a blind spot was. But after the first ten years in startups, I quickly knew what blind spots were. It seemed like every time I was faced with some problem, it had been created by me.
Have you ever felt like that? Like the very problems you're dealing with are of your own creation?
It may be because we have ways we see the world, ways we think about things, and those perspectives are great at showing us some things, while at the same time hiding other things from our view.
Let me give you an example. If you're a software developer, this may sound familiar.
If you're the kind of person that loves writing code and solving problems, every time someone asks you if something can be done (and it's an interesting problem to you), do you notice that you underestimate the effort you predict it will take?
It's a by-product, maybe, of how you work, how you see things, and how you let your emotional interest drive your estimating.
I worked with a friend who constantly underestimated the things he liked doing and overestimated the things that sounded boring. It was a blind spot.
And the crazy thing about blind spots is you can't see them. You need someone else to help you see it.
In the case of my friend, I kept some stats and showed him how off his estimates were. Then, more excitingly, I showed him the correlation between his emotional state and how far off (and in which direction) his estimates were.
Soon after, his estimates were accurate and awesome. But only because he had someone around, a partner, who was close enough to observe his blind spot.
YOU NEED A PARTNER BECAUSE YOU HAVE INSECURITIES.
Have you heard of the guy who had so many insecurities about his company that he ended up sitting on his couch, immobilized by fear and never launched a thing?
No. You haven't. You know why? Because we never hear of the people who do nothing. We only hear of the people who do something.
But insecurities are real.
So what's the difference between insecure people with a partner and insecure people all alone in their home on their couch?
People with partners can talk through issues and fears and with the confidence and assurance of a partner, can take a step (a small one) in the right direction to get started.
Almost every job I have ever had has terrified me the day before I start. I get nervous and wonder how I got the job. Thankfully, I have friends and a wife who will call me out on my insecurities and challenge me to step forward.
You need a partner who knows where the insecurities are likely to show up and knows how to help you navigate them. Because the likelihood that they have the same ones is low.
YOU NEED A PARTNER BECAUSE YOU HAVE WEAKNESSES.
Let's be honest for just a second. None of us is perfect. We're amazing. Sure. But not perfect.
Which is why you need a partner. Because as much as they're not perfect either, the combination of two people who are imperfect in different areas will create the power of a partnership that's more powerful than any individual weakness.
There was a time when I was just plain nervous around spreadsheets. Seriously, they made me stress out. Way too many rows and columns in the spreadsheets I was looking at. And I never knew where people were looking as they were reviewing them.
But I had a buddy, Larry, who would walk me through the spreadsheets and the models and help me understand them. Over time, I got a lot less sucky at Excel.
I'm not a maven yet, but one day people will watch me create a model in Excel and they'll be amazed.
Or maybe not. But I won't be stressed about it because my weakness was shored up by the help from a partner who had a stake in me getting better at something to help our team.
YOU NEED A PARTNER BECAUSE YOU HAVE COMPETITION.
As you read thru this list, you noticed I touched on your skills, your feelings and your understanding. I started there because many of us are aware of our own shortcomings, so it's easier to convince you that you need a partner for those reasons.
But there's a bigger reason for why you need a partner in any business endeavor. In fact, if you've been doing your freelance work for a while, you may have already experienced this dynamic.
So as you start seeing competition at work in your space, you likely have a couple of moves to deal with them. To differentiate yourself. But maybe they've not worked.
And that's when you're stuck. Because you've only been exposed to your own experiences.
So you need a partner because it expands your exposure and experience by 100%.
YOU NEED A PARTNER BECAUSE YOU HAVE BIG DREAMS.
They were bicycle repair guys. Of course, that was after they were printing press guys. Brothers who spent a lot of time with gears. Working in a metal shop repairing bicycles because there was pretty good money in it.
One brother took the lead. Had ideas. Had drive. And was the leader of their initiative. But the other was pretty darn smart, and would be needed to fill in some of the gaps.
Wilbur and Orville Wright became aviation pioneers together. Partners. Because their big dreams were too big for a single person to tackle.
I don't know what you're going for, or what you hope for in your business but if it's big, I can tell you this…
Because if your dream is small enough for you to completely tackle it on your own, maybe it's not worth it. Maybe you just need a little more time to dream.
And when you hit that spot where you can see it, and it's seriously big, and it stresses you out, and you worry how you'll ever accomplish it (hiring your first employee, bidding on a job bigger than you've ever bid, selling your company, or launching a product) – the presence of a partner will inspire and challenge you.
I'M SPEAKING FROM EXPERIENCE
A partner will:
- protect you from your blind spots
- speak truth to your insecurities
- limit the impact of your weakness
- expand your exposure to options
- help you accomplish big dreams
I've started several businesses and never once have I done it without a partner. So I can't talk about who Rocky would be without Mick. I have no clue what Han would do without Chewbacca.
All I've ever known in business, and all the success I've had has come from working with a partner.
I hope you find one and see what I'm talking about.