A Good Partnership is Like a Good Marriage

Like everything else, partnerships have their pros and cons.  Partnering with another designer can be a great way to grow your business.  However, many business partnerships eventually fizzle out or fail.  So what does it take to create a successful business partnership?  How do you sustain it?  What could a partner bring to your business?

In this podcast, Gail and Erin talk with interior designers Christi Barbour and Christi Spangle, co-founders and partners, Barbour Spangle Design, High Point, North Carolina.  For the past 21 years they have worked together to build a thriving practice that now employs a dozen women, designers and business personnel.  And they’re still growing.

Congratulating them on their 21 years of success together, Gail asked Christi and Christi what makes it a great partnership for them.  Christi Spangle said they have many things in common, such as their values and work ethic, but also they complement each other’s strengths.  “We are a very good blend,” she said. “We bring individual things to the table which we both depend on.”

Gail then asked them what would they recommend to someone who is interested in having a business partner.  “You have to have a solid relationship of some sort,” replied Christi Barbour. “You don’t ever want to partner with someone you don’t know well.”  She said that when she and Christi decided to form their partnership Christi’s dad told them, “If you guys are going to make a go of this, you really need to treat it like a marriage.”  You have to know there are going to be disagreements, good days and bad days, and commit to being in it for the long haul.

“Ultimately, it all boils down to trust,” stated Christi Barbour.  “If you do not have trust, you’re never going to have a partnership that’s going to last.”

Christi Spangle added that open communication is key.  Plus, she said, you have to always be open to change.  Times change, business conditions change, people change.  You have to accept change and work through it.

Erin wanted to know how they handle it when one of them has a big idea that they really want to be considered.  Christi Spangle said that used to be more of a problem but that they have adopted a process called Stage-Gate in which the idea is weighed against certain criteria at different phases of the decision process.  If the idea doesn’t meet the criteria, then it may be rejected or it may be set aside until the time is right to take it up again.  Christi Barbour noted that the process also helped them to realize that her strength is more at the idea generation phases, while Christi Spangle focuses more on idea implementation.  Yet another area where their skills and personalities complement each other and allow them to achieve more together.

In closing, Gail and Erin asked each Christi for three bits of advice to share with listeners.  Christi Spangle said:

  • the importance of having trust
  • taking personal time to think and reflect
  • taking care of yourself so that you have a healthy business

Christi Barbour chose:

  • identify exceptional qualities of your team
  • teaching leaders on your team how to lead others
  • having a passion outside of work

The conversation touched on a number of other topics as well, such as leadership and team development, how to hire to build the right team, and the importance of a strong company culture.  Listen to the entire podcast for these and much more.

Mentioned in This Podcast

To learn more about Christi and Christi’s firm and to view some of their projects, visit their website at Barbour Spangle Design.

For more information about their project to promote the town and businesses of High Point, go to the website for High Point Discovered.

Chrisiti Barbour mentioned that they use EOS to operate their business.  EOS stands for Entrepreneurial Operating System.  It is a set of concepts and tools to help businesses achieve their vision.  More information can be found at EOS Worldwide.

To find out more about the Stage-Gate innovation process that Christi Spangle talked about, go to the website for Stage-Gate International.

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1 Comment

  1. […] Being a good listener is extremely important in effective communication – as is being able to have honest conversations with others.  It is also important to be able to separate “fact” from “story” – with facts being what a video camera would have recorded – the written or verbal description objectively stated without opinion creeping in and  “story” including opinions, beliefs, interpretations, judgments, motivations, and assumption.  Along with being able to separate fact from story, it is important to be open and curious enough to listen to both and hold an open and honest discussion as well as being sure each party is clear that what they heard was truly what the other person said. […]

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