When two's better than one

Two's better than oneEver fancied starting your own business but put off by having to shoulder all the responsibility? Then it's time to make like Lord Sugar, go into partnership and split the hard graft.

As well as having twice the manpower and creativity, having a wingman/woman has got to be handy when the kids are off sick or on holiday, too. Here, Barclays asks some business 'couples' – friends, relatives, husbands and wives – how they make their joint ventures work.


Five rules for successful partnerships

Business coaches Dean Williams and Sarah Brown give their top tips on making partnerships work.

  • Share a vision
    Successful business partners are ones who have the same big goal for their business, whether it's creating the best cheesecake in the world or staying at the cutting edge of IT. Whatever it is, you have to want the same thing.
  • Stay positive
    Running a business is a rollercoaster, so you want to be in partnership with someone with a can-do attitude. Someone realistic, but with stamina!
  • Be clear about your roles
    If you don't allocate responsibilities you wind up duplicating jobs. Someone needs to 'own' jobs, so they get done and problems get resolved.
  • Have monthly 'health checks' 
    You should be talking all the time, but it's also important to have regular 'formal' meetings, with minutes. This is to give the business – and your partnership – a proper health check, with problems raised, finances examined and any changes in your roles and responsibilities discussed.
  • Discuss your end game
    Are you building this business up so that you can sell it? Are you getting it to a place where you employ someone else to run it? Discuss what you both want to avoid clashes further down the line.

The government has lots of information on how to set up a partnership

Get a referee

Clare Moran set up My Secret Kitchen, a food-tasting company, with her husband Phil Moran four years ago

"Phil and I set up My Secret Kitchen when our youngest child, Bailey, was two. We'd worked together in the past (I was a food scientist for a large company and Phil was in sales), so we felt confident about our partnership.

"Even so, we knew there'd be times when we'd disagree, so we asked an ex-colleague, John, to come onboard as a minority shareholder. His role would be as referee – making the final call on contested decisions.

"One year Phil figured coffee syrups were the next big thing. He asked me to create one but I got distracted and came up with a lemon and cardamom curd instead. We had to ask John to arbitrate the syrup/curd divide. Curd won, Phil accepted and it's been a great seller.

"A trusted, clear-headed referee who understands your industry will do wonders for your business!"

Socialise outside work

Friends Claire Heafford and Louise Hall set up the Papered Parlour, 2010 winner of the London South Barclays Take One Small Step competition, running arts and crafts courses

"The Papered Parlour is the second business Louise and I started together. Our first involved creating bespoke artwork for interior designers and for 18 months it was successful. Then the recession hit and we were so worried, we stopped making time for each other outside work.

"One night we ended up having it out in the pub. There were plenty of tears as we realised we hadn't done this for ages – just talked.

"Feeling in tune again meant it was much easier to face our work worries as a team. So now we have a rule – once a week we socialise outside work. We go to the pub or just have dinner round at each other's houses. Low-key – but necessary."

Squash your ego

Fleur Emery set up organic porridge company Grasshopper Porridge, with her sister Abi Hillier five years ago

"I was 32 when Abi and I started Grasshopper. I wasn't married and hadn't settled to a steady career so I was desperate to make the business a success.

"I worked 24/7 and kept bothering Abi to do the same. But Abi had a home life, so she wanted to work set hours, complete her tasks then be with her family.

"I couldn't accept that. I kept issuing diktats about how much she should do and finally Abi got fed up and told me I was behaving like a tyrant. That hurt but it taught me a lesson.

"I needed to deflate my ego, work in a different way and accept the way Abi works. I tried and discovered the more harmonious my relationship with Abi, the more productive we both were. Plus, the less egotistical and rigid we were about how to run the business, the more successful it became."

Lean on each other

Friends Lynda Martin and Donna Hawkes set up Mpenzi, a company making beautiful handmade children's clothes, in 2010

"One of the best things about having a business partner is the support you get when things aren't going well. That happened after a boutique took some of our dresses, sold them and ordered six more – in just two weeks!

"It takes us five hours to make one and with five children between us, I didn't know how we'd find 30 hours to fulfil the order.

"I made the hard decision to put my two girls into nursery – but Donna was always there for me to talk to. She kept me going and helped me work through all my worries. Having that emotional support meant I didn't give up: and the business took off."

Have separate roles

Three years ago, Laura Kemp set up ChocCards, with her mum Gaye Shakeshaft. They went on to win the 2011 North East Barclays Take One Small Step competition, securing £50,000 for their business, which creates personalised wrappers for chocolate bars

"Mum and I work well together because we have different skills. She used to be a graphic designer – a creative - while I was a business development manager which meant I was logical and good with numbers.

"So when we came up with ChocCards, mum took responsibility for the designing and I did everything else. We talk about everything but we both accept who has the final call on the different elements.

"I think if you have two people doing the same roles but with slightly different opinions about how to do them, you're going to run into problems. Always pick a business partner whose skill set complements your own."

For more great tips and hints from mums who've been there and done it, take a look at -From start-up to pick-up and watch the business videos on Barclays on Mumsnet Laura's story – business video

If you're thinking about going into business with a partner, a business account with Barclays gives you a free 45min consultation with a solicitor, accountant and marketing professional and a Barclays Business manager who will listen to your needs.

Head to
Barclays on Mumsnet for lots more:

  • Expert information on starting your own business
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  • Money-saving videos and inspiring start-up videos


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Last updated: about 3 years ago