Have you ever wondered what would happen if you had married the wrong person?
My wife is amazing, and I thank God for her every day. She makes my life unquestionably richer. But what if I had married the wrong person — a “quarrelsome wife” of less -than-noble character? I shudder to think of what that kind of life would be like. And I can’t help but think that it would be a lot like being business partners with a jerk.
In this series on business wisdom, we’re studying how the principles in the word of God can be applied to help us be fruitful and successful in our businesses. Today’s lesson is about partners — just like it’s a bad idea to get married to a jerk, it’s also a bad idea to go into business with one. Doing so may seem attractive at first, but in the long run it will cause you nothing but pain.
In the church, leaders often warn Christian young people not to get into romantic entanglements with people who don’t share their faith. They do so based on a nugget found in II Corinthians 6:14:
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?
This scripture makes a powerful point about marriage — a righteous person and a wicked person can’t share a healthy relationship bond, because light can’t have fellowship with darkness. Many young Christians have ignored this wisdom in a rush to get married, and have sadly ended up paying the price for it. Many Christian business owners have learned similar lessons.
The wisdom found in this commandment applies just as much to business partnerships as it does to life partnerships. Business partnership has a lot in common with marriage. If you’re partners with someone in business, you’re likely to work very closely with them on a daily basis. Your finances are inextricably linked to theirs. You share in their business successes, and if they make a huge mistake, it can cost you.
In a marriage, unbelievers can bring in a lot of sins that can wreck their families. Think of the stories you’ve heard about addiction or abuse ruining marriages. Now think about how those same problems would impact a business. The sins and failures of a business partner can cripple your company and ruin you financially, even if you’ve personally done nothing wrong.
There’s no getting around it — anytime you form a partnership with someone there’s risk involved, whether you’re talking about marriage or business. The quality of your partner’s character and the level of integrity in their lives is going to have a big impact on the quality of your life.
Some financial teachers are so put off by the risks of business partnerships that they tell their followers to steer clear of partnership altogether. I think that teaching is painting with too broad a brush; rather than avoiding something altogether that may have potential upside for you, I would recommend using the wisdom of scripture to figure out who you should and shouldn’t be in business with.
I would start with the II Corinthians injunction against being unequally yoked together with an unbeliever. If you have a business partner that doesn’t recognize God’s authority in their lives, then eventually their personal sin is going to creep into your business relationship, and you’ll end up paying a price for their shortcomings.
From there, it can be helpful to vet potential business partners like you would potential spouses. Do they share the same values, vision and goals that you do? Are they kind, loving and friendly? Are they generous? Are they people of strong character and integrity? Are they trustworthy? Are they fun to be around?
If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” then you probably don’t want to go into business with this prospective partner. It can be tempting to rush into business with a partner or investor simply because they bring a lot of desirable skills, assets or capital to the equation. But when you partner with someone, you don’t get just their skills and money — you also get all of their flaws and baggage as well.
I’m not here to teach against business partnerships, but I do want you to think long and hard about who you’re willing to do business with. Look at it this way: If you wouldn’t want to marry a person (or wouldn’t want your brother or sister to marry them), why would you want to be in business with them?
Partnerships don’t have to be failures. Use the Bible’s wisdom as a guide, and you can enjoy great relationships at work and at home.