Going it alone could be the worst decision you ever make.

“If you want something done right, do it yourself ” should be eliminated from the list of clichés and replaced with “You should not do it alone.” I spent too many years trying to do it myself and have suffered terribly. Our culture seems to cultivate and perpetuate this affliction for many women. I have stayed up until 3:00 a.m. before an extended family gathering at my home, attending to details without asking for help from anyone. It turns out half of the to-dos didn’t really need to be done. Bill and the boys would have helped, and no one noticed the unnecessary over-the-top efforts I made. To make matters worse, I spent the gathering too exhausted to enjoy it.

I’ve spent months, maybe even a year at times, carrying responsibilities at work that my team was hungry to learn and motivated to assume as engaged partners. Only when it was so apparent that I was walling myself up, building a silo to house the efforts of one, did I realize I was separating myself from the construction of the entire castle. I had a team ready, willing, and able to put the power of many to work. Why wasn’t I maximizing the power of partnership? It was easier, or so it seemed in the moment, to choose the path of singularity. However, it was the wrong choice.

Unfortunately, a lot of entrepreneurs buy into the myth of the lone genius. Separation, stress, fatigue, and short-term gain are the results of “doing it myself.” Unity, confidence, fulfillment, and long-term gain are the results of “not doing it alone.” The latter is far more successful and fulfilling, and I am a convert and toeing the line for “not doing it alone.” If I can buy in and stay bought in, I have faith that others can, too. Partnership requires permanent commitment and effort.

In my many years as an entrepreneur, spouse, and parent, few things have come close to dethroning partnership from a position at the top of the list of tough stuff. The workload is heavy. This type of dedication requires being all in at momentous levels. The effort is time consuming, the steps are small, and the payback requires long-term investment. I keep giving ’til it hurts, because the dividends have been beyond my wildest dreams. It may not be easy, but the opportunity is there for those who want it and are willing to give what it takes. The result brings out the best in others, which is the way to find the best in yourself.

Margaret Heffernan, entrepreneur and acclaimed author, writes and speaks about the success of partnership. She calls it a better way to work and a richer way to live. “A culture of partnership is central to success and outperforms individual efforts. It means you don’t have to know everything, you just have to work among people who are good at getting and giving help. And it doesn’t happen normally. We have to work at it.”

Research by MIT on team success found that the most successful teams have three characteristics in common: There is a high degree of social sensitivity for each other; a position of equality is given to each team member; and the groups have more women. These teams allow ideas to flow and grow to achieve greater levels of success.

When you invest in partnership, you prioritize truly knowing someone. This builds reliance, interdependence, and trust. These are the building blocks of social capital that are critical to entrepreneurial success. Social capital makes companies robust, and it compounds with time. Taking the time to know your co-founders, your employees, and your business partners builds value. This creates comfort in candor and even conflict, and this is the space where good ideas flourish and become great.


Ok, you know that partnerships are important. So how do you make the leap into partnership?

You may have the vision for partnership at startup or at the point of opportunity for growth, but you feel unprepared and alone in this decision. This is common and normal. Difficulty with co-founder or equity partner recruitment was listed as “extremely challenging” by entrepreneurs in the Sources of Economic Hope study by the Kauffman Foundation. The stakes are high, and the decision will have a permanent impact on your entire life. Is it worth it? I had these thoughts when we were evaluating the decision for Bill to join me full time. This could unravel our lives if it did not go well. This is where self-awareness and evaluating every option are necessary. Get real with yourself and find the logical answers for why each option may or may not be right for you. These exercises will open your mind to the power of partnership and eliminate the emotional clutter.

Angel investors and venture capitalists striving to invest smartly put the power of the team as the single most important factor in determining potential success. This is more important than the product or service, skill set, potential growth, or anything else. Who are the co-founders professionally and personally? What does their vision and passion look like? And are they united in their goals, dedication, and work ethic? In other words, are they partners in the truest sense of the word? These are questions that are not answered easily with words. The answers are in the intangible extras that connect a team at a level that allows ideas to flow and grow.

A scientific method for engaging in successful partnership doesn’t exist. I believe that when partnerships are nurtured correctly, they can grow beyond definition and expectations. Consideration must be given to the effort each member of the team desires to give, as it will determine what you get. Whether considering the addition of an internal partner, an external partner, or key employees, I apply a three-tier evaluation.

  • Tier 1 is skill set: Identify skills and experience needed for your business to grow in scale and impact.

  • Tier 2 encompasses shared values: These are the values that define a person professionally and personally, that help you see the world through the same lens, and that guarantee being on the same strategic page. My list includes valuing the long-term over the short-term, the hard work of true partnership, a strong work ethic, solid communication and transparency, team over individuality, and a deep passion for what we do and where we are going.

  • Tier 3 consists of the lesser things you can’t seem to compromise on: Dig in and get aware of these. They are not show stoppers. They feel more like your issues than those of others, but the reality is that they are present enough to impede the progress of partnership. My list includes humility, owning it—taking responsibility for failures without blame, and no politics. This last one is a near terminal offense for me.

Always All In,


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