Keys to Business Partnerships & Max Performance

When business is good, revenues are growing, and profits are sufficient, everyone seems to get along excellently. However, these outcomes may not be the result of a good team, and you may not be achieving peak performance. As the economy seems destined for recession in 2008, how strong your team really is will become more apparent. This is because the true strength and character of a team are most clear when business conditions become difficult. This article identifies the two key factors in achieving peak performance in any type of organization.

For simplicity throughout the rest of this article, when I refer to partnerships I am referring to any ownership group, partnership, or executive team. As an Executive Coach I work with partnerships to either counteract challenging times or take their businesses to the next level.

A business’s success is rooted in the culture created by its owners. This culture is founded upon the core values established, promoted, and demonstrated by its owners. I have found that if a partnership is missing two core values, the organization underperforms its potential, which may lead to outright business failure and/or separation of the partners. These two core values are trust and respect.


I am amazed how many people are in business with people they do not trust 100%. Worse, people are promoted into partnership after demonstrating to their employers over many years that they are not to be totally trusted. This is justified by a person’s skills, who they know, how much business they have brought in, and so on.

I recommend that an unconditional core value of partnership must be Trust. If you are going to enter into a partnership, ask the following questions:

  • Would you be willing to give your personal checkbook to your partner?
  • Do you believe this person will do their best to act in the firm’s best interests over their own when no one else is looking?
  • Do you believe this person will have your back in public when you make a mistake?
  • Do you believe that this person will live all of your firm’s core values?
  • When something goes wrong in your organization, do you know that your partner(s) will tell you the unvarnished truth?
  • Do you believe that this person would answer yes to all of the above questions when asking that question about you?

If the answer is not yes to all the above questions, you have a partnership that is on a weak foundation, and when the going get’s tough you may have trouble keeping things together. A partnership without unconditional trust has excess conflict, extra bureaucracy, and typically requires more paperwork. Mistrust amongst leadership is like cancer as it spreads throughout the rest of your organization.


While trust is an issue in many partnerships, I find that respect is the most violated. As an element of business planning, I help organizations identify and define their core values. I am relieved to report that many of the companies I have worked with have chosen “respect” as a core value. Interestingly, the leaders of these organizations have trouble articulating the definition of respect. This is usually caused by the fact that there is a gap between the ultimate definition and what is currently going on in the organization.

The reality is that respect is a difficult value to implement. I think there are really two primary reasons:

  • Hierarchical Society – People tend to treat others based on where they think others are in the hierarchy in relation to themselves. For example, a boss may talk down to subordinate staff about a particular subject. When having a conversation with someone at their own level on the same subject, their tone and body language may be more neutral. In other words, they inadvertently are treating their subordinates with less respect even though those subordinates may know more about the subject.
  • Competitive Society – People are always trying to identify ways in which they are better than others. For example, in an accounting or law firm it is not unusual to see value conflict discussion between the people who bring in the business and those who deliver more of the work to clients. While this might be an important discussion to determine how profits are generated, it often leads to a determination of respect. In other words, the person who is the rainmaker uses sales as their lens for respect. So they give the most respect to those who can bring in business and, intentionally or not, disrespect those who do not. Their words and actions start hurting the partnership and eventually the firm.

Here is a test to see how well you are at acting with respect:

  • Which do you think about more often, your partner’s strong points or weak points?
  • How often do you make complimentary statements about all of your partners to co-workers and subordinates when those partners are not around?
  • Do you use the same tone and body language to a secretary as you do to an owner?
  • When you measure the performance of your partners, is it against yourself or predetermined goals that you mutually developed?
  • Do you truly respect each and every one of your partners?


The real challenge is that these are values that must be managed like your income statements and balance sheets; daily. Most of us have hundreds of interactions daily which provide many opportunities to earn or lose trust and respect.

An executive and business coach can help! Review our website to understand how an executive coach or business coach can help you increase the success of your career and business or contact Howard Shore at 305.722.7213 or