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May 23 at 8:30am

10 Steps To Determine If This Is The Right Partner For You Right Now

In my producing pursuits, I have had some of the best partners in the world.  I think we have served each other well.  But what was good at one time, does not always apply to your situation today.  People change faster than relationships do.  It’s hard to keep up. A good business and creative partnership is constantly evolving to shift with the personalities involved.  It’s hard sometimes to step back and see it how it really is.  The answers and the problems are often hidden in plain sight.  How do you evaluate what is right?

Work with those you know will turn the wheel to the right

Work with those you know will turn the wheel to the right

  1. When the truck is careening down the road and your partner is behind the wheel, which way will they turn?  If they are in America, you need the partner that will alway turn to the right, putting themselves between you and the truck.  Likewise, if you are not willing to do the same, you clearly do not value the partnership enough.  For producers, that truck is often a director, financier, actor, or distributor.  If you partner is not protecting the producer unit first, it will not last beyond that film.
  2. "Do you really want to have dinner with them?"

    “Do you really want to have dinner with them?”

    Do you enjoy having dinner with them?  You better, as you will have to do it often.  Did you once, but no longer?  What changed?  I don’t think a partnership can last if you don’t enjoy each other’s company.  Once that slips, it is probably time to move on.
  3. Can you argue and neither one of you needs to be right?  Both of you should only need to be heard, and should be confident you will be.  An argument is to determine the best practice, not to win.  Partners don’t need to win.
  4. Does the partnership allow you to do more than just cover more ground?  Good partners not only complement each other’s skill set, they are dedicated to enhancing those of the other.  You should always be learning from your collaborators.  They should always want you to learn from them.  You should always want to share what you have with them too.  If that sharing is not a constant flow in both directions, the partnership is over.
  5. Partners should always be building the trust and confidence between them.  Once suspicion or secrecy enters the picture, the partnership is doomed.
  6. Good fences make for good neighbors.  Partners set boundaries.  Where are the limits?  Don’t abuse them.  Don’t let them abuse them either.  Keep up the fence.
  7. Can you communicate openly and fully without judgement?  If you are biting your tongue, it will come undone. Do they set expectations as to what they want from anticipated event?  If they do not communicate expectations well, do you help them to unearth them, and they you?
  8. If partnerships are not equal, they still need to be balanced.  People often want to collaborate because the other often offers something that you do not have.  But it still needs to be both a give and take. If one side feels the balance is off, the partnership is doomed.
  9. Partners don’t sweat the petty and won’t fuss over forgetting to put the cap back on the toothpaste.  A partnership is a big picture solution.  Somethings will always be annoying.  A partner won’t mistake the trees for the forest.  The greater sense of purpose allows there to be cracks; that’s where the light gets in (thanks, Mr. Cohen.)
  10. Partners inspire each other to do their best.  No matter how long you have collaborated together, you should want to impress the other.  A little competition should not hurt but actually help, but it should always be cooperation that drives your train.  No one wants to do something only for themselves.  We like to play on a team and one where we know we are wanted and appreciated.

What else makes a partnership work?  I need your help here, partner…


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  • Jan Caston

    Hate to say this – but have you picked all this up through marriage counseling?

  • Kat Ogden

    A common set of ethics and morals. Maybe it doesn’t apply when you are on larger projects where there are more people in the leadership roles, but when you are in the small and micro budget world, that shorthand is invaluable. Especially when every penny counts and you’re open to a different level of liability due to low budget/low insurance/more hats being worn.

  • Barbara Moss

    these pearls of wisdom can indeed be applied to any partnership but my FAVORITE is all inclusive #2

    “Do you enjoy having dinner with them? You better as you will do it often.” great observations to consider. thanks for this conversation starter. I’m gonna share it at dinner tomorrow night.

  • Meneka Das

    Humility is a good one too! “Do you have humility Mr Shields”? (The bad & the beautiful 1952)

  • Martin Wallace

    What else makes a partnership work…? Necessity.

    Seriously, I think the best partnerships emerge spontaneously and by default. As soon as you need to evaluate i think there’s something at least a bit wrong. ~Tough truth is – it gets harder to find those partnerships as time marches on. Baggage.

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