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If there is a word that makes me shiver is “partnership”. Everyone loves partners, right? A business partnership is great! A romantic partnership makes us happy. And what to say about that one person who’s your partner for life? But the sad truth is that we have, for a long time, forgotten what a partnership really means. And without knowing the meaning of the word, it is impossible to live up for its promises.

A partnership starts when two or more people decide to work together to achieve a common goal. More than that, the partnership assumes that the final result will be greater than the simple sum of the parts: like a mathematical paradox, partnerships require that 2 + 2 = 5 (or more). Not only that, and probably the most important thing: a partnership assumes that each part is willing to help the other, investing their own time and money in the relationship.

But if time and money are so scarce, why would I stop investing all of it in my own business and give some of it away to somebody else? The answer is short and simples: it must be worth it. And that brings us to the first conclusion: you cannot be everyone’s partner.

Some people are special to us. Some companies have a way of working that pleases and strengthens us. It is very easy to look at someone on the other side of the table and see how he can help us. He could help us make a sale to one of his own clients… she could introduce me that person I’ve been trying to schedule a meeting for so long… but what do you bring to the relationship? Remember, the partnership must work for both sides. Responsible people (and only responsible people can be a part of good partnerships) do not like unbalanced relationships where either side is favored in detriment of the other. And that brings us to the second conclusion: reciprocity is the basis of the partnership.

If you want to be someone’s partner, the first thing you have to do is unbalance the relationship in favor of the other person. Help him. Get him a client. Solve his problem. If he is a good partner, he will insist on giving back. When that happens, and the balance returns to equilibrium, don’t waste time: help again! Unbalance the relationship one more time in favor of your partner! He will work twice as hard to put things in balance again. In the end, the balance will tip over and over, and everyone will feel they owe something to their partner, when, in fact, everyone won.

Invest yout time learning about your partner. Know their business, their problems, their daily routine. If possible, physically visit their business and stay there for some time learning every detail of their product, why they are good at what they good. Become your partner’s best seller. Invest one hour of every day to look for opportunities for your partner. He will do the same for you. And if he doesn’t, well… then it wasn’t a partnership, was it?