Baking partnerships

I‘ve been wanting to write something for myself for a while now, and being a tech blog, I should inaugurate this one with an instance of writing blessed by tech canon: fail often and fail quick.  Figuratively, you can see it like playing a poker hand or snipping a wire defusing a bomb.  As far as consequences go, they can range from emotionally draining to traumatizing (in a sort of gradient between n…n+1).  But if we’re torturing analogies here, let’s talk about baking and partnerships.

I’m mostly a coder, who dabbles in entrepreneurship, but since my passion lies in personal projects and friendships, I’ve run into a few situations where they come together.  Some of these Frankensteins have turned out well, and others not so much, but the biggest factor in determining that success has been in the partnership built.

Picking a partner: values and experience aren’t all sugar and spice

Picking a partner is a kind of baking.  You get the ingredients together, you lay them out in front of you, then crack, crack, crack, mix, mix, mix, whisk them all in a bowl and stick it in an oven.  Your project, the business, is like that oven.

Cranking the oven up reveals the wonderful possibilities, and without it your cake is just a pan of half-rendered goop, in a state of ready decomposition.  By taking the elements and putting them to the test, all the constituent elements behave together as well as the mixed ingredients were picked and placed.


Except, sometimes, we as bakers are blind.  We as bakers mislabel our ingredients, or ignore the labels altogether.  What was salt is actually sugar and what is sugar is baking soda, and what is baking soda is Ajax scrubbing powder with bleach.  Yech, and call your local poison-control center immediately.

People are the same.  You and I, we hold a few flavors for public consumption.  How we behave, the attitudes we project, our go-to methods for conflict resolution and problem-solving: we keep these as a sort of feature-set called upon as long as there’s clean, un-pressured energy to utilize before our fight-or-flight centers kick in.

Take multiple people, add a potentially big payout, and now we’ve got some heat.  You’re going to run into situations when what you thought was a Beef-Wellington ends up being just a starter-log wrapped in yolk-glazed paper-mache.  Volatile, flammable.

Some have ingredients rated for high temperatures, while others go up in flames pretty quickly.

So, big note-to-self: put the time in beforehand.

  1. ‘Date’ all potential partners, and be aware of the typical warning signs (ex. mismatched values, gut feelings, personal history)
  2. Make sure the vision is there.  No vision is like a train off the rails: crazy.
  3. Make sure there’s an end-game. Get confident about it, learn the possibilities and contingencies.
  4. Have an understanding of how each partner resolves uncertainty and conflict.  One person making decisions out of fear in a partnership is a symptom that real communication has broken down and planning is out the window.  That’s a recipe for burnout and disaster.
  5. Make sure negotiating financials isn’t akin to pulling teeth.  Someone who continually tries to negotiate you at every step is a sign that you’re not going to be working together long.

If you’re going to be spending irretrievable time in your life with others, with the intentional goal of creating something to benefit everyone involved, make sure you all balance each other’s strengths and weaknesses in a lucid and explicit way, even at the worst of times.  And that’s not easy to achieve.  But putting in the legwork beforehand will be worth it in the end.