Some people can't handle owning multiple businesses at once. Me...I love it! I have this insatiable appetite for starting businesses and leave them running to start another one. For me, several factors contribute to my success in a business venture, and one of them is partnering with the right person when I start something new.
The problem is that, of course, business partnerships can get messy. If I could do business alone, I would. I've been burnt, lied to, cheated on, stolen from, and everything in between.
I've always blamed my business partners for failed ventures, but then I started to ask myself: what if the problem was ME?
I started to pray about this - asking God to reveal how I was contributing to failed partnerships. I honestly and earnestly sought for the Holy Spirit to show me because I know God wanted me to succeed with others, not alone. If God's plan was for me to be in community and fellowship with others, then there had to be a way to work well together that I just didn't know about yet.
Then, the Holy Spirit spoke: BOUNDARIES.
I had heard about boundaries in dating, but not in business partnerships. And usually, boundaries were a "girl" thing; not a topic guys would sit down and talk about.
So like with everything that needs perfecting in my life, I turned to the Bible to find out everything the Word had to say about boundaries in relationships, specifically, boundaries in my business partnerships.
As I started researching boundaries, I knew that this was exactly what I needed to work on to experience breakthroughs in existing partnerships and start on the right foot on future partnerships.
How did I know? What were the signs?
Well, I reflected on a few thoughts.
I frequently felt stressed, overwhelmed, and burned out by the amount of work I had to do in my partnerships.
I found that I struggled to say no to requests from partners.
I found myself avoiding partners that I grew uncomfortable being around.
We all want successful businesses, and we all would love it if we could find the best partner to do that business with, right? However, if you feel like any of the bullet points above, then you, too, might have an issue with boundaries as I did.
Business partnerships are exciting and full of a lot of adventure and hard work. We wear many hats, and it's "all hands on deck" to pull the wagon out of the mud. However, the struggles are just as diverse and divisive, but they all boil down to the same fundamental problem: we've allowed our needs to take second place to our partner's needs.
Boundaries in business partnerships, then, are about standing up for ourselves. Having healthy boundaries means being able to count on our partner in the entrepreneurial venture to treat us in a manner that we're comfortable with.
The Bible says
Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house, lest he have his fill of you and hate you. (Proverbs 25:16)
The author of this proverb understood that if physical boundaries weren't set up, people wouldn't get along with each other. There needed to be some rules of engagement if communities were going to flourish.
I used to allow my business partners to call me whenever and show up at my office at any time. I thought this was the "Christian" thing to do. I thought this is what business partners do - a "whatever it takes" attitude. However, the Bible says otherwise. It implies that if you overstep your neighbor’s boundaries, then he will hate you, and it will be your fault! And vise versa - if it's your neighbor coming over into your space, you'll begin to hate him.
That’s a clear example of needing to set up and live in healthy boundaries.
The key discovery I made is that healthy business partnerships need healthy boundaries.
When we think of boundaries, the ones that first come to mind are the physical boundaries like in the Proverb above or our bodies and personal space. In my study of boundaries, I uncovered five other types that I had not considered.
6 Types of Boundaries in Business Partnerships
Here are the boundaries that we must consider in our business partnerships:
Physical boundaries - example above
Sexual boundaries - this one is about limiting our partner's sexually charged jokes, inappropriate conversation topics, and other behavior that we’re unwilling to entertain.
Intellectual boundaries - having our opinions respected by our business partners even if they disagree.
Emotional boundaries - having our feelings respected by our partners even if they disagree with us.
Material boundaries - how our partners use our possessions, including the money and assets we bring into the venture
Time boundaries - ensuring that our partners understand the value of our time
Of the list above, physical boundaries are probably the easiest to follow since they're coded into the culture - personal space generally isn't a problem in business partnerships. However, the other five boundaries are personal to each one of us - we all fall on a different spectrum in each area, making it even more important to communicate them.
Setting boundaries is difficult because I avoid confrontation and don't want to be seen as sensitive, needy, or overly stuffy. I don't want to harm the relationship or make things awkward.
But, not setting boundaries is counter-productive to the partnership and will hurt the business in the long run. The quality of the business partnership will decline if we continually allow our boundaries to be stepped over.
Setting boundaries in business partnerships can be uncomfortable, but to create and operate a successful, long-term business, short-term discomfort is a small price to pay.
Since I get into many business partnerships, I plan on writing my boundary manifesto to hand it over to potential business partners before getting into a venture with them. Good idea, huh?
What are your thoughts? Comment below.