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Things to think about before you form a partnership

Running a business boils down to conversation and communication, alumna writes in her new book

Figuring out how to run a business doesn’t always come naturally to some, and many fail to invest time and effort into one of the most important aspects of it all — good communication.

Dorene Lehavi PhD ’95 wants to change that.

Applying principles derived from her social work background, she recently released a new book, Business Partnership Essentials: A Step-by-Step Action Plan for Succeeding in Business With a Partner. Lehavi hopes to help more people succeed in business partnerships, which have just as much — if not more — to do with psychology than anything else.

“I found out 70 percent of businesses fail. Some people even say 80 percent. It upsets me because … those kinds of failures shouldn’t happen,” she said. “Small- and mid-sized businesses are ones that really run the economy and provide most of the jobs. And if 70 percent fail, it’s just intolerable. I made it my mission to change this statistic.”

A decade in the making

Business Partnership Essentials was 10 years in the making. As a career coach, Lehavi has worked with a slew of unhappy people, from lawyers to entrepreneurs, all hoping to make positive changes to their lives. When she started coaching people in business partnerships, she heard a range of complaints that boiled down to one major issue: miscommunication between partners.

The difference between other [career] coaches and me is my social work background.

Dorene Lehavi

“The difference between other coaches and me is my social work background,” said Lehavi, who previously worked as a social worker in medical, school and private practice settings. “That’s why [the book is] so unique. On every level, all businesses are about relationships.”

Lehavi said that small business partnerships often fall into one of two categories: either two people jump the gun and form a partnership before finding out if they actually have compatible values, priorities and work styles or partners may get along but don’t know how to communicate effectively when it comes to business responsibilities.

“Most people do not think in terms of relationships,” she said. “They blame it on something else [such as] the economy or my partner didn’t do the work, or finances. So many people don’t know how to talk to each other and what to talk to each other about.”

Setting the foundation

Unlike other books that focus on what needs to be done to succeed in business, Lehavi’s book guides people through the conversations they need to have before setting the foundation of a successful business partnership. She developed a template for potential business partners to follow when forming an agreement — an important step often overlooked.

Most people don’t think in terms of conversation and communication.

Dorene Lehavi

“The template is built to substantiate and solidify their relationship,” Lehavi said. “Make it clear who does what. And talk about values. This helps avoid bigger issues down the road. Most people don’t think in terms of conversation and communication.

“People say things to each other, and they’re hearing something totally different,” she said. “[After I work with them] they say, ‘Wow, we’re able to talk to each other.’ I lower the volume and get them to listen.”

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