The phrase “unequally yoked” is a phrase most commonly found in the Bible ( 2 Corinthians 6:14 “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?”). However, I have found this to be true also in business relationships.
A yoke is a wooden bar that joins two oxen to each other and to the burden they pull. An “unequally yoked” team has one stronger ox and one weaker, or one taller and one shorter. The weaker or shorter ox would walk more slowly than the taller, stronger one, causing the load to go around in circles. When oxen are unequally yoked, they cannot perform the task set before them. Instead of working together, they are at odds with one another and they find themselves going into circles.
In short, just like in a personal relationship where the balance is “unequal”, a business relationship where partners do not share the same vision, work ethic or even risk will also be doomed from the very beginning. And just like the oxen you will find yourself going in circles with your business partner instead of making progress. I found myself in this position for two grueling years with a business partner and a friend who was the complete opposite of me. We literally had an argument every two weeks about our roles and eventually these arguments bled into the marketing strategy and the vision of the business. Two years and $2,000 later I realized we were just going in circles. I had to make the very difficult decision to cut my losses and quit while I was ahead so I did not invest any more money and time in the business. She was 70% owner of the business but I was doing 150% of the work even neglecting some of my other business ventures. That math was not adding up and I began to feel used and unappreciated. I realized my role was better suited a consultant versus a business partner and felt like a brick had been lifted from my shoulders when I terminated the partnership. I also felt like I could get my friend back. All we talked about was the business. This is obviously another topic, “Should you go into business with a friend?”, which I will explore in a future post.
At the end of the day time is money and unlike the latter you can not get time back. Before entering a partnership with a new business set clear goals and timelines in a business plan for your business to ensure you are on the same page. Last but not least, have an iron clad operating agreement that clearly stated the roles, obligations and responsibilities for each partner so that in case of a disagreement you can always point back to the paper! If all fails, the best advice I can give you is to be a sole proprietor of your business and just hire out consultants, contractors and interns to help execute you vision without having the burden of having to come to an agreement about every business decision you want to make.
What has been your worst experience with a business partner? Share your thoughts and comments below:)