The most frequently "hit" post on this blog is an article on business partnership.
Precious little information you find out there on partnership relates to what is -- in my opinion -- the most important ingredient of a partnership: the way that the partners manage the interpersonal nature of their business relationship.
Here's an article about an exemplary partnership in my circle, that of Elena Brower and Lynn Hazan-deVaul, owners of NYC yoga studio Virayoga. This article was posted this past spring to a website that serves the Anusara Yoga community in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut -- hence some of the yoga terms! (I'm cross posting here because it has been replaced by fresh content!)
(And on another yoga related update, I got a lovely note from Marsha Nieland of Fusion Studios in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. After flood waters subsided, they offered services to a member of the National Guard there helping in recovery work. They are on their way to rebuilding and reopening their business. You go!)
Here's the article.
(I think we called it "Elemental Truths about Yoga and Business Partnership".)
Anusara yoga teaches Universal Principles of Alignment by linking metaphor with physical action. The principles also provide powerful images for our lives off the mat.
Working relationships are fertile ground for practice -- particularly our close working relationships.
There's no closer working relationship than a business partnership.
Business partnership offers a seemingly simple and elegant support. When you're not feeling strong, someone else will be there with you. You'll have someone to lean on, a complement, shelter from the storm.
"It's like a marriage," says Virayoga's Lynn Hazan-Devaul. And like marriage, partnership is far from simple.
Virayoga has served the tri-state Anusara community since 2002. Its heart is the strong business partnership between Lynn and her partner, Vira's founder Elena Brower.
Consider the elements of this successful business partnership: actually, consider the elements, and the principles.
Space. Open to Grace.
Lynn and Elena joined forces shortly after Elena opened Virayoga's doors.
Lynn had been a devoted yoga student for many years, and a student of Elena's. Months into Vira's new life, Elena was overwhelmed by the behind-the-scenes work required to keep the business running. A friend who knew both women thought that Lynn's financial and management expertise could help. He suggested that the women meet, so that Lynn could take a look at the business.
Over a weekend, Lynn sorted through receipts and bank statements. By Sunday, Elena and Lynn were discussing partnership.
"It's about desire. You know, ask for what you want?" Lynn comments. After leaving a music industry job, she had told friends that she'd like to own a yoga studio one day.
Elena says that she saw Lynn as the perfect person with whom to join forces, “I was awestruck by Lynn’s deft embodiment of both business professionalism and spiritual awareness, for lack of a better phrase.”
And both shared a clear drive to serve. “Service is really the heart of teaching, and particularly of overseeing a studio." says Elena.
Earth. Muscular Energy.
The choice to proceed as partners emerged from that weekend. The women spent several months working together to develop a legal operating agreement that supports the partnership today.
The key to crafting a grounded agreement was honesty. Elena and Lynn each knew, and could clearly state, what she wanted and needed; each was willing to articulate these details and commit them to paper. The individual requirements were used to create their roles, and written into the partnership agreement. For example, the agreement states that part of Lynn's role is to manage and further Elena's career.
The partners also intended for the agreement to balance responsibility between them.
Each listened, and aligned with what was important to the other. The women also came to the partnership with shared values. Most obviously, they wanted to center Virayoga in Anusara Yoga.
Freedom to make this, and other choices was partly possible because Virayoga was neither the primary financial nor social means of support for either partner. "Elena and I both had outside interests, so it was about desire rather than need to form the partnership – we didn't need to do it, we wanted to."
Honesty, shared values, balanced responsibility, and sufficient external support provided stable ground for the business, the partnership, and each partner.
Water. Inner Spiral.
More than a legal agreement allows this partnership to flow. Lynn describes the unconditional respect the women share, “It is a respect for the other's whole being. Even the things that bother us!"
Along with shared values and respect, the women have evolved a conscious process for making decisions together. Not every decision comes with complete and total agreement: sometimes one partner makes the ultimate choice. But when a decision has been made, both partners move ahead in support of the choice.
Respect, balanced responsibility and conscious decisions create the opening for each partner to fully offer her unique gifts.
Fire. Outer Spiral.
Each partner can thus place attention and effort on the work she loves. Elena manages the teachers, crafts the schedule and flyers, seeks substitutes as needed and teaches weekly classes. Lynn takes the lead on all things business, such as where to grow and where to spend.
"We are very clear in our delineation of roles, and we don't try to do each other's jobs," Lynn comments.
Elena adds, “The boundaries of our agreement have opened a great deal of clarity within the partnership, wherein each of us can really do what we do best.”
Air. Organic Energy.
Elena and Lynn's activities outside of Virayoga can make scheduling time together a challenge. Sometimes they don’t talk for a week, yet the partnership continues to work. Lynn says, "We're in a groove."
Partnership has allowed Elena and Lynn to build a solid, stable and highly skilled staff, which permits the business to operate smoothly.
Both partners offer additional kudos to Virayoga’s new manager, Kiriaky Binihaky. “Kiri has essentially taken on the studio as her baby, which has allowed us even more freedom and trust."
Choice, honesty, respect, balance, and love are elements of a partnership through which Elena, Lynn, and Virayoga’s staff manifest their desire to serve, touching the lives of thousands of students and teachers in our community.
The partners report 2008 as their best year ever. Virayoga has expanded, moving into larger space in the same location, and opening a new "Healing Annex" for semi-private classes, workshops and bodywork. The business has flourished; six years of partnership have also deepened the women’s friendship.
Lynn says, “You don't have to love your business partner to have a good partnership. I'm lucky that I do."
(photo of the lovely Virayoga snagged from their website, in hopes of being able to ask for forgiveness instead of permission!)