Definition Africa is a Ugandan fashion label founded by Nadia Bhegani, Olga Mugyenyi and Nahida Bhegani, which tries to source all of its raw materials on the continent. As part of the latest series of African Dream, they shared their experiences of being part of a business partnership – an experience they likened to being in a marriage.
Business partnership – How do you make it successful?
• Adopt clearly defined roles: As the team grows it is increasingly important to streamline what everyone does in order to avoid duplication and confusion. When there is a lack of clarity information slips, efficiency levels are compromised.
• Open communication channels: It’s fine to disagree. Constructive criticism and in-house dialogue are key to the development of the business. Regular meetings keep us up to date and allow us to chip in regarding any key departmental decisions.
• Mutual respect: We’re friends, but – ultimately – we run a business with loyal employees, suppliers and customers. It’s our job to be professional and approachable in order to enable smooth sailing.
• Down time: You can’t function efficiently if you work yourself to the bone. It’s important to schedule time to relax and recharge.
• Trust: A partnership can only work in an environment where there is a positive attitude and trust. As businesses go through their various cycles, partners will be put to the test. In circumstances where there is no trust, the future is bleak – as it would be in any relationship.
• Shared Values: It’s helpful if partners share similar values. For example, there needs to be agreement on what we are promising to clients and how far we are willing to go to maintain that.
• Unified vision: Business partners should share the same long-term vision for the business and be willing to sacrifice bigger salaries and work longer hours in order to get there. Look for what energises and motivates each of you about your business.
• Common sense and self discipline: Think about how your actions and conversations outside the business affect the public perception of your partners and your business. Always act in the best interest of your partners and your business. Treat others as you expect to be treated, respect boundaries and adhere to systems.