Teamplayers

Successful partnerships don't just happen. These young entrepreneurs have discovered the key to combining their unique talents.

were complementary. Baker-Simmons, who had more than a decade of experience in film and television, handled the creative, while Shelley, a corporate veteran, tackled the financials on the production side. Although there was a clear delineation of duties, they still disagreed about such things as how to pursue projects and how much money to spend. But the two say settling disputes is easy. Shelley says they agree to disagree and leave the final decision to the partner with the most experience.

“I respect her for her expertise and Tracey respects me for my expertise,” says Shelley, vice president and executive producer. “So even though we might argue about something, when it comes to anything that has to do with numbers, I make the final call. When it comes to the creative, how we’re editing the show, or choosing a network to go after for a particular project, she makes the final call,” she says.

In addition to producing Being Bobby Brown, this dynamic duo is now working on an upcoming animated series for PBS called Mac and Me, featuring the voices of former TLC members Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas.

Partnerships can be profitable if structured and managed properly. Before embarking on any business partnership, consider these steps for creating a successful union:

  • COMMUNICATE CONSTANTLY. Maintaining open lines of communication can prevent disagreements from turning into a war. Hold regular meetings to update partners about the company’s progress, review roles, share grievances, and provide constructive criticism.
  • SHARE THE SAME VISION. Each member must agree on the strategic direction of the company. So if you plan to build a chain of stores in the next five years and your potential partner wants only one, find another partner.
  • FIND PARTNERS WHO ARE COMPATIBLE. One of the biggest mistakes that potential partners make is choosing someone who is exactly like them. “You should definitely look for someone with complementary skills,” says Shawn Ward, one-half of shoe company Detny by SHANE&SHAWN. But also recruit someone whose personality doesn’t fight yours.
  • DEFINE THE ROLES. Brenda Hopper of the New Jersey Small Business Development Centers Network says to choose and assign hats according to the individual strengths and skills of each partner.
  • CREATE A PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT. It should include: the roles of each partner, amount of money invested by each partner, ownership percentage, partners’ pay and compensation, company vision, how disputes will be settled, length of partnership, and how assets will be distributed if the partnership is dissolved. Have your lawyer draw up the papers and have all partners sign.
  • BE WILLING TO COMPROMISE. Not all decisions you make will be clear-cut. When disputes arise, try to find a middle ground that will satisfy you both while still benefiting your business.
  • HONOR YOUR COMMITMENT. “Sometimes a partnership runs very smooth and sometimes you run into bumps where you clash because one partner is bringing more to the partnership than the other,” Hopper says. Clearly indicate the level of commitment that will be required to run your operation.
  • RESPECT AND TRUST ONE ANOTHER’S ABILITY. You’re
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  • George Wallace

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