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#BODJHB: Finding the 'perfect' business partner

"There is absolutely no such thing as a perfect fit, but there is something called a right fit," said Andrea Kleinloog, co-founder of Anatomy Design, introducing her talk on 'Partnerships: Finding the perfect fit' at the Johannesburg version of Business of Design earlier this month.
Andrea Kleinloog
For Kleinloog, there are a number of reasons not to partner with someone.

Firstly, don’t partner up with someone to solve your problems. So if you aren’t coping, that’s not a reason to find a partner. “That’s like finding someone to be exhausted with.”

Then, something she’s heard from every single intern they’ve had over the last six years: ‘I’m a creative, this isn’t really my thing.’ “Getting someone to do the crappy part of your job while you do the fun part is not a partnership.”

Another reason is for money. “Don’t make money a firm and fast reason for needing a partner... However, money is a proposition of value, so if the partnership opportunity comes about, you do have to have a very clear measure of value. You have to place a value on the business assets, on you, on your goodwill, all that jazz, and there needs to be an exchange of those values.”

Another really bad reason is what some people will tell you are good reasons: ‘I’ve got some money and I want to invest it in a business… any business.’

‘I don’t have any money but I have great connections.’ “That’s a terrible idea! You might be very popular, but there’s still not a real equitable value to that point.”

‘I’ve always loved decorating or décor and I want to invest in your interior design business.’ “Just walk away.”

This is a good one too: ‘We are best friends.’ “You need to have professional respect for each other and the business needs to come before your friendship, because if you can’t make rational decisions, you’re going to get into trouble.”

Basically, you have to want the same thing, and you have to understand it.

Andrea Kleinloog and Megan Hesse, co-founders of Anatomy Design.

It is pretty much a marriage

Kleinloog and her business partner, Megan Hesse, were friendly, but not besties. “Sometimes you need to go on a date, sometimes the two of you need to go for dinner and remember why you are doing this,” she advised.

In this way, a business partnership is pretty much a marriage.

Your business partner is like your husband or wife, so you need to have a contract in place. “From the start, there needs to be a clear understanding between the two of you so that if the poo hits the fan, you know what’s going to happen.

“Similarly to a prenup, you don’t just get married to someone willy-nilly; you date, you think about it, you come to an agreement and then you both agree on what you’re going to do and how you’re going to be protected if you happen to get divorced.”

You must share the same core values

In selecting a partner, this is a critical, key point between the two of you.
  1. Work ethic: “Because we both value what we do, we work extremely hard.”

  2. Family: “If don’t agree on this, and you have a massive deadline, but you need to get home to your baby (for example), you’re going to frustrate each other.”

  3. Hours: “Whatever the hours are, you need to be on the same page. In our case, Megan doesn’t care if I come in at 10 or leave at two, as long as the work is done. Similarly, some days she doesn’t come in and there’s no questioning of where she is or where the commitment lies.”

  4. Manners: “Nobody shouts, except for me sometimes,” she jokes. “There’s no reason to raise your voice. There is always a calm, rational way to talk it through. There’s always a solution.”

  5. Money: “Every now and then disasters happen, and you can throw money at them, but if it’s a grudge, you’re going to run into problems. The same applies in a marriage. If you and your husband don’t have the same money ethic, you’re going to argue about budgets, spending, why the water bill is so high... But if you have the same values, then the argument is simple: ‘Ok, well, how do we fix it?’, rather than trying to blame each other about where the problem happened.”

  6. Spelling!

Some other learnings

  • “‘Do it for the kids’ or employees – same same.” In other words, don’t fight in front of them. You need to respect each other.

  • “Make sure your concubines (husbands/wives) are supportive, because you’re taking on a second partner.”

  • Understand the commitment you’ve made (to each other and to the rest of your team). “People are everything. The people we work with are amazing. They understand the camaraderie that there is never a reason to point a finger at anybody else, because at the end of the day you had a role to do with it, and we’re all in this together.”

  • Work together, but retain your independence. “We handle the larger problems together, but individually we are independent designers. Megan doesn’t rely on me for any part of her daily job and I don’t rely on her for mine, however together we can produce amazing things.”

  • Don’t use your partner as a crutch. “Your partner is a team member, not a crutch. We are all narcissistic. You will always think that you are the sickest with the flu, that you are more tired than anybody else, and the most stressed, and in a work environment, that you are definitely working harder than your partner, but it’s not the case.”

  • Be honest, but always be kind. “If you need to get something off your chest, be honest with each other. There is never a reason to snap or say mean things,” and this comes back to respect.

  • Be grateful. “Back to the narcissist point. Your partner is doing an equal amount of work, you just aren’t seeing it. Be grateful to each other for the role that each of you play. Megan is grateful to me because I am a massive nerd, and I am extremely grateful to Megan because she tells me straight: ‘You’re having a really bad taste moment’. Because I know it’s coming from a place of kindness; she’s not intending it as a harmful comment, and that constructiveness is critical in a relationship.”
Anatomy Design is opening its bespoke retail experience at Trumpet, 19 Keyes Avenue in Rosebank on 1 September, which also marks the opening of the precinct and Anatomy Design’s inaugural First Thursday. Open to the public from 6:30pm.

About Jessica Tennant

Jess is Marketing & Media Editor at She is also a contributing writer.