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The Sweet Spot Between Business Partners

26 Jan 2012
by Alex Hillman

  This post rang true of a comment that I’ve made many times about what to look for in a great business partner, and one of the reasons why I think it’s impossible to find a great business partner with the “speed dating” approach.

I met <a href=”http://twitter.com/geoffd” linkpeelr_cache=”https://twitter.com/geoffd” target=”_blank”>Geoff DiMasi</a> after Indy Hall was already getting started – not as a workspace, not as a business, but as a community. 


 Geoff saw what I was up to, and we connected over my goals for the project – improving Philadelphia, improving our industry’s visibility, and making a difference in how work gets done. I was green, too. I didn’t have a lot of business experience other than my solo practice. I had no experience in commercial real estate or rentals. 

  And lets not forget – I was 22 years old with visible tattoos, piercings. I wasn’t exactly a shining example of confidence for a new business partner. But Geoff saw past the exterior, and saw what I had already accomplished – and I think, what we could accomplish together. All that said: I think the most important thing about the success of our working together is our differences.

Differences + Alignment = The Sweet Spot

  Geoff and I don’t agree, we’re aligned. I believe the difference is one of orientation. 

  Alignment is something that comes with a deeper understanding of another person and empathy for the differences in their worldviews and objectives. Empathy doesn’t require that you agree with someone – it requires that you recognize their feelings and have the capacity to share. Those feelings may be emotions being experienced at a very specific time, but it also includes understanding another person’s general feelings about certain ideas, goals, etc. 

  As business partners (and team members in general), this is extremely useful. When Geoff and I disagree, its a clue.  By acknowledging the disagreement, we can make sure that it’s not about ego and instead about the matter at hand. If it’s about ego, there’s a chance to let it go (or call the other person on it). If it’s not, we press on. 

 If you were to draw our opposing ideas as lines, they’d start as parallel lines.

   
 We can trust our alignment to let us get through the disagreement, the lines start trending towards a center point.

   

  Essentially, our alignment helps turn our disagreement into a divining rod for a “sweet spot”, an option I often refer to as “hidden option c”. When a disagreement is focused on the idea, the common place to end up is in whose idea is right or wrong, better or worse. Alignment helps us transcend our own ideas and look for “hidden option c”, a new conclusion that we can share. 

  This also reminds me of Steven Johnson’s theory in “Where Good Ideas Come From” that there’s no such thing as a single eureka moment, but instead the collision of two “slow hunches”, two half baked ideas, that need each other in order to be a complete (or more complete) good idea. If Geoff or I didn’t work with our alignment, the only options we’d ever have at our disposal would be the result of our own approaches. 

  By allowing our alignment to navigate us to the sweet spot, we uncover a new idea, often more innovative, than either of us could have easily had on our own. If I look back at every project or company that I’ve been involved with that’s been successful and/or innovative, it’s included a partner or teammate with a differing viewpoint but an overall alignment towards a goal. 

  If you’re looking for a great business partner, teammate, or client – spend some time focusing on your alignment, rather than the idea itself.

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Alex Hillman I am always thinking about the intersection of people, relationships, trust and business. I founded Indy Hall in 2006, making us one of oldest fully independent coworking communities in the world. This site is packed with the lessons and examples I’ve learned along the way. You can find me on Twitter, too! 🐦 Say hi.