Every company and every corporate culture is a little different. But after more than 40 years as a serial entrepreneur and business builder, I have refined an approach that has consistently worked when it comes to even the stickiest issues: Fit comes first.
In an age when short-term returns, technology and the bottom-line drive so many business decisions, I remain unrepentantly old school. Trusted relationships are the ultimate connective tissue in any organization, and I believe it is more important than ever to ensure that you get the right people—and partners—in the door.
The single most important quality to look for is passion. Those who are truly passionate about the work they do bring forward a powerful, creative force that inspires others and propels growth.
Next comes the alignment of values and personal priorities, even the most complex things will typically fall into place. Over decades of building companies, my fundamental corporate values remain largely unchanged.
Perpetual Partnerships Start with Values
Of course, experience, a successful track record of performance and credentials will always be important, but finding and bringing together those who share the same DNA when it comes to entrepreneurial passion trumps everything else. It not only ensures people will commit to the company for the long-term, but it fosters resilient partnerships that adapt to changing needs.
Those values move the agenda forward. They allow its refinement as circumstances evolve. They provide a beat of competitive accomplishment, rather than a frantic reaction to the latest pressure point.
So how do you frame a process that sounds, at best, intuitive and subjective?
There is some reverse engineering involved.
Over time, I have developed a set of very specific values and principles that resonate with the sort of person I want to attract to my companies. If these values are truly authentic and scalable, they will create a foundation upon which you can build a successful business in any sector.
Principles for Partnership
1. Partner only with people you like, admire, respect and trust. Each of these factors typically require time to fully develop, but you ignore your gut feeling about individuals at your peril.
2. Partner only with people with whom you want to have breakfast, lunch or dinner—a second time. If the prospect of spending time in a more informal, social context is unappealing, it is probably something you should carefully consider. Effective, long-term partnerships require a fundamental personal connection not just with you, but across the organization and beyond it.
3. Partner only with people who have the human compassion gene. Over time, I have learned never to underestimate the importance of compassion in our partners. Acknowledging your many blessings and giving back to the community reflects a solid character and underpins a trusted brand at the same time. Compassion also extends to animals. In my experience, those who do not respect or care for animals lack the empathy that makes them effective leaders and compelling business partners.
4. Partner only with people who are good communicators. All successful leaders can engage others with a narrative that inspires and informs. Even those who are not natural communicators can learn how to tell their story and make it relevant to a broader audience.
As we move beyond the Covid era and continue into unknown economic times ahead, it’s essential to future proof your organization with people who you can trust and want in your corner during difficult times. My own company is proof this works. Over the last 42 years in business, I’ve developed life-long partners through my many investments. Over 100 partnerships later, and I haven’t had a single divestment.
Partnerships that are sustained with long-term commitment will pivot faster and compete more effectively—for talent, for capital, for mindshare.
Fit comes first—and it lasts.