Cultural Friction Can Wear Out Your Partnership
Excerpts from Let's Go Into Business Together: 8 Secrets to Successful Business Partnering
Some entrepreneurs do the business partnership equivalent of getting
married after the first date. They rush forward without evaluating more
than superficial impressions about their intended partner. Some impulsive
business owners enter a partnership because it seems like a good idea at
the moment, not giving a whole lot of thought to whether they are well suited
for working in a partnership. Some individuals team up with total strangers
and others partner with family and close friends. Cautious folks spend
months evaluating their partnering decisions, involving a team of lawyers,
accountants, and other professionals. Others throw caution to the wind and
move forward with little structure or formality.
There are many personal and professional issues to consider in choosing
a partner. Among the most sensitive are questions of cultural and religious
compatibility. These individuals articulated why considering cultural and
religious differences may be a necessary part of your evaluation process:
- I'm black and my new business partner is white. When we discussed
going into business together, I looked for any prejudicial attitudes in
his language or casual, off-guard behavior. Of course, he would never admit
to such a thing, but it can be unconscious or subtle. I spent several weeks
just hanging out with him and his friends, until I felt reassured that
this wasn't an issue.
- I come from a large Italian family. We're very close and all
of the adult children live within 20 miles of where I grew up. My partner
needs to understand that my large extended family will be dropping by the
business all the time. I wouldn't partner with anyone who wouldn't give
my family the royal treatment. My family comes before anything.
- I am an Orthodox Jewish doctor. When I discussed merging my
medical practice with two colleagues, I made it clear to them that I wouldn't
work from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown, nor on various holidays throughout
the calendar unless we had a life-threatening emergency. The "on-call"
schedule would have to accommodate my religious commitments or the partnership
was not going to work for me.
- I am a Jewish female. I partnered with an Egyptian man who
seemed to be the perfect business match. We were an excellent partnership
in terms of our complementary skills, but there was one major problem for
me I hadn't predicted. In Egypt, Jewish women are treated like second-class
citizens. Even though this gentleman had been in the States for 25
years, his negative stereotypes about women were deeply rooted in his psyche.
No matter what the partnership agreement said, he couldn't see me
as an equal partner.
Azriela Jaffe is the work and family columnist for Business Week Frontier Online, focusing on issues affecting entrepreneurs and their
families. She's the author of several books on the subject and coaches
people in business through her firm, Anchored Dreams. For more advice from Jaffe, check out her weekly columns or her Web site.
Let's Go Into Business Together: 8 Secrets to Successful Business
Copyright 1998, Avon Books Inc.
Reprinted by permission of Azriela Jaffe
All rights reserved.
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