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Tony Mobily's picture
By Tony Mobily
Thursday, September 30, 2010 - 20:25

Never have a 50% business partner. Ever.

This is possibly the most important rule for a reason: break it, and you will fail. A 50% partner will give you a 98.8% failure rate. Having two bosses running a company together is like having two heterosexual pilots in one Formula 1 racing car: at the beginning they might enjoy the mad ride, but eventually they will hate each other's smell, sweat and breath. There is a reason why big companies, when the current CEO resigns, hire one new CEO and not two. There is a reason why there is one commander in an army. There is a reason why the divorce rate in progressive, balanced couples is so high. 50-50 partnerships don't work. And if your business partner happens to be the perfect person, who shares your vision, puts the same efforts into the business, the same financial resources, and he even provides the occasional extras for your own pleasure, then just wait till he dies. Yes, death does happen, especially to good people and good business partners. Then, you will have his wife and children vetoing your decisions, deciding your company's direction. Or, sending you bankrupt in the process of buying them out.

Corollary: This rule is especially true if the business partner is your love partner The only difference here is that when the company splits, rather than negotiating his exit route, you will walk the provided exit route -- in your underpands.

2 comments so far

Charles's picture


Mon, 10/25/2010 - 04:45



While these are not examples of 50% partnerships, there are many successful companies with co-CEOs -- RIM's Jim Balsillie and Mike Lasaridis come to mind, as does Motorola's Greg Brown and Sanjay Jha. Now you might have an opinion about these company's fortunes vis a vis Apple, Microsoft or Nokia, but they are both successful Fortune 500 companies.

SAP is another big software company with co-CEOs -- and they returned to this format this last February after experimenting with a different big-name CEO.

Again, these aren't 50% partnerships, but they do share leadership. Perhaps they can be successful because they divide up responsibilities -- inward and outward facing; sales vs operations; etc.. It probably helps there are many other powerful stakeholders (e.g. BoD) that help these guys negotiate through conflicts.

applicomhq's picture


Wed, 01/12/2011 - 08:36



I think it's a matter of statistics. And quite possibly, size!
That is, the chances of having real power issues when it's 50-50 are just so great...