Business Breakup: When your partnership falls through


“Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success”.- C.S Lewis

When you’re a startup dealing with a more powerful, larger, and established partner, things get tricky. You become so focused on making the partnership work, that you get lost along the way.

Like a crush, you begin to fixate on the potentials of the future. All your time and effort goes into the other person and you lose sight on the realities or needs of the present. When these feelings aren’t reciprocated, it sucks.

So what happens with a business realtionship doesn't work out? This has happened to us, and it will happen to every entrepreneur at some point along their journey. Here's what we learned when one of our partnerships didn't play out as well as we hoped (along with some red flags that you can look for when finding the perfect partner for you).

  1. Don't change your business model to make the partnership work. Our potential partner brought ideas to the table that we hadn’t previously considered. Which is great because we believed in this partner's vision, but some of them went against our original objectives. We spent a ton of time working out a new business model that just wasn’t a good fit for us, but a great fit for them. This should’ve been a red flag that we were force-fitting the partnership to work.
  2. Don't be so forward-looking that you neglect day-to-day business activities. The partnership kept us in the planning stage and never executing. We had action items in place that were dependent on this deal going through, and we invested a lot of time planning for those. We didn’t mind it, as we believed it would be worth it in the grand scheme of things. But we fell behind on some day-to-day operations. We focused too much on what’s ahead rather than what we had then and there. The constant balance between planning for the future and making the most of the present is tough to get right. If you find yourself planning and never really executing, you need to rethink your objectives.
  3. Set a deadline to cut bait if things aren't working (and stick to it!). We had imposed a cut-off timeline saying, “If the partnership isn’t finalized by this date, we will move on”. But we ended up extending it, having hopes things would work out. Even though we had a feeling things weren’t working out, we were afraid of it falling through. We let the relationship drag on for too long, and it kept us distracted.

Although it's never fun to have plans fall through, it's better to find out a partner isn't a great fit for you before committing to something long term. Plus, you can spend more time on the partnerships & relationships that are working for you.

MOST IMPORTANTLY: Never underestimate your abilities to go somewhere without a partner. Sure, you’re a startup, but you’re more innovative than any corporate partner could be. Tap into that, harness that, and you won’t be the little guy forever.