Heather Barrie and Richard Davies went from casual acquaintances to business partners running a successful business learning network. Here’s what makes it work…
We’re more than one plus one, Richard and I. We’ve got the stuff we’re quite good at ourselves, then together, there’s layers of stuff we’re great at. I’m a kind of gobby, loud person with a bold style and Richard’s very calm and techy, so we have a balancing energy. The benefits of working with a business partner seem so obvious now. But I’ve been self-employed for 30 odd years, and it’s taken that long to have a partner. Why? And what changed my mind?
We met, we spoke, we parted
Despite running a business together, I’ve only met Richard in person once. A friend introduced us seven years ago when I was working on a business project, he suggested I talk to Richard and we met over a beer in London. Then we went on our merry ways, connected on LinkedIn and didn’t think too much of it, just chatting occasionally.
But then two years ago, spurred by a LinkedIn post of his, I picked up the phone to talk to him about an idea I’d had. We spoke, he liked it, but the project was put on the backburner. Then Covid hit. I called him again and said ‘You remember that idea?…’ We knew it was still a good idea but it went back on the backburner as we realised that Covid had presented us with a more important mission, and that’s how Business LINCS Café began.
It was the coming together of the idea, the person and the situation that was just right… and it’s taken off.
Together we’ve built a community of like-minded, multi-talented professionals, who are driven to learn and share their own experiences and lessons. We’re constantly developing our offering and spur each other on to try new things and build on what has worked.
Two heads are better than one
For no good reason, I’d always thought that having a business partner would be to my financial detriment. But together we’ve achieved more than we ever could on our own.
Much like any good relationship, you have to find the right person. We both bring our own unique qualities. Richard is a very intelligent guy and he’s an absolute gentleman and a great person. But more than that, I think that we bounce off each other and we inspire each other.
In fact, the partnership emboldens us. We use the expression that ‘we build the plane whilst flying’ and that’s what we’ve done since day one. Our first event was completely by the seat of our pants, but we just got out there and did it. We’re a bit more organised now of course, but we continue to push forward confidently, because we’re doing it together.
We know what’s at stake if we mess up, but we don’t let that stop us, instead it makes us more accountable. It pushes us to do what we said we were going to do. Making decisions has also become easier. For example, I’ve had quite bad experiences in the past with outsourcing things like social media, but we’re getting really comfortable with outsourcing where our time would be better spent elsewhere. Because it’s a joint decision, it takes that pressure off.
Things to consider in a collaboration…
Collaboration isn’t right for every project, or for every situation, the thing is not to rule it out. Because the possibility that you are better together is real.
Still, it’s important to be savvy, so here are a few things to think about:
- Be very clear about your why and what’s the advantage of collaborating. Ask yourself what you want to achieve and keep sight of that.
- Consider whether it works for both parties. If there’s an imbalance, that could spill over into a problem. It may be that you just need to find someone with the right personality or skillset to correct the balance.
- Trust is key, and having a framework in place can help to prevent any unnecessary or nasty circumstances arising that can damage that trust.
- Be honest when it’s not working. With the right documents in place, (think a business prenup) you’ll feel more able to break off the partnership and salvage what you can.
- Partnerships don’t have to be all-in. You can collaborate in lots of different ways, leaning on each other’s skills at the individual project level, for example.
When you do find all of the right ingredients for your business partnership, just get cooking. You won’t regret it.