Tonye Cole's Principles For Building A Lasting Business Partnership

Tonye Cole's Principles For Building A Lasting Business Partnership

Business partnerships are notoriously difficult to navigate and sustain, often failing because of personality clashes between partners, disagreements over money or conflicting business goals.

In this second excerpt from the MARGIN launch event in October, Sahara Group CEO Mr. Tonye Cole shares three principles for a lasting business partnership from his twenty-year experience as a founding partner of a thriving Nigerian energy company.

1. Set terms for the partnership from the start.

A business partnership is not a friendship.

"In Sahara Group's case, we agreed from the beginning that our partnership would be on equal terms. Many partnerships fail when the person who came up with the business idea demands the bigger or biggest share of the business. That may seem fair but it is short-term thinking. When we [the partners] founded Sahara Group, we divided the company's shares equally, each of us owning 33.3% of the business.

2. Recognise that each partner has a different skill set.

There is strength in variety.

"The skill set of each partner could be useful at different points in the lifetime of a business. At one point it might seem that the person who came up with the business idea is doing all the work, but at a point in the future another partner's skill set might be the most essential to the business. For example, one of my partners at Sahara Group is hardly ever seen. He's always behind a screen, going over details: accounts, taxes and processes. That's his skill set. On the other extreme, my second partner is more visibly active and is great at driving projects. You must understand each other's skill sets for your partnership to work."

3. Never fight over money.

An argument over money could be the beginning of the end of the partnership.

"Whoever is in charge of the financial aspect of your business should be trusted to handle it without being queried constantly. Trust is important to the success of your partnership."

Are you part of a business partnership? What difficulties has the partnership had and how did you handle them? Post your comment or tip in the comments section below or send it to hello@margin.ng.

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