Why business is like ... living together

An untidy person can drive their orderly cohabitant to distraction - as my mother knows. She may fold her clothes away neatly but if her feral other half leaves unwashed dishes in the sink and clothes at the foot of the bed each night, the result is a mess.

by Jennifer Harris, director of JRBH Strategy & Management,www.jrbh.co.uk
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Think of business. Two partners each own half the company. One is a keen ideas person, the other a traditionalist who avoids risk (and E-numbers). The result: stalemate. But since stalemate brings inaction, the stick-in-the-mud effectively wins. In both cases, the result of putting two opposing personality types together does not yield equal frustration: the one favouring inaction trumps the other.

The notion that opposites attract is common in partner selection, whether for business or romance. But should we add this to the long list of other instinctive but self-destructive inclinations, like opening a DVD boxed set of 24 the day before a deadline, or buying a two-for-one of Haagen-Dazs? Like moths flying into flames, just because we feel compelled to do it, doesn't mean it's good for us.

Yet many successful partnerships have been formed out of wildly contrasting pairings. Take scientist-engineer Henry Royce, who joined up with businessman CS Rolls to build the great Rolls-Royce brand. The secret lies in whether the contrast is of skills or of attitudes. Rolls and Royce contributed different skills but shared an entrepreneurial spirit. But try pairing an entrepreneur with a plodder and you are likely to produce only friction.

Business double-acts have a rich history that can't easily be dismissed. So if you're looking for the perfect match, seek a partner with opposite skills but the same attitude as you - otherwise you'll be left with bigger problems than the odd discarded shirt.


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