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Here’s how to make a business partnership work well when your personalities differ


On the surface you couldn’t get two people who are more different than us as business partners. Most people would think we don’t have a great deal in common. Creative Director Alex is contemplative, complex and highly creative; while Managing Director Matt is the people person, an insightful, entrepreneurial thinker able to easily foster rapport and build relationships with people.

There’s no denying we work in an industry with a reputation for puffery, inflated egos and conceit, where clashing personalities are not uncommon. But luckily for us, after 12 months of relaunching our independent creative agency we have achieved the unlikely goal of building a solid business partnership; one that is based on common values and a shared sense of purpose.

Considering we both came from corporate environments and are now essentially running a startup, it’s even more of a feat. Along the way we’ve learnt a lot, particularly what it takes to build and maintain a healthy business partnership. For us it boils down to a few key elements.

We share the same vision for the business

It seems simple. But if partners are not pulling in the same direction, you’ll never succeed. Values and professional goals must be aligned and the vision for the business must be tangible, believable and real.  If things like approaches to people management and leadership differ you’re going to struggle and it will be difficult to work seamlessly.

Complementary skills

The power of the whole is stronger than the individual but to realise this, the partnership must be complementary. We all have our own strengths and bring something unique to the situation and for a thriving partnership these attributes should complement each other.

Common ground is also an important aspect. For example, in our partnership we both have a good understanding of people and this allows us to not only challenge each other, but our teams and our clients. It means that the work we deliver is grounded in truth and is also interesting and relevant to the needs of our clients and the consumer.

Mutual trust and respect

Every partnership will hit rocky ground at some point but if you have that alignment of values and vision, then it will make it easier to have a healthy level of honesty and direct communication. If the relationship is honest and respectful and there is a good level of trust, then you’re in a much better position to handle any tough challenges.

At the end of the day, business partnerships may be hard work but they are also a blessing. It can be comforting when there’s another person as invested in the success of the business as you are, who’s willing to work hard to make the vision a reality. You know you each have the other’s back and an understanding of what’s required to keep things going. Plus, when things are going well, it’s satisfying to have someone to celebrate with and recognise the journey you’ve taken to get there.

Matt Rose and Alex Wadleton, are the managing director and executive creative director respectively at ZOO Group, an independent network of creative agencies, owned by the people who run them. We create interesting ideas, platforms, products, communications, and campaigns for businesses. Because we believe everything, and everyone, should “Be Interesting”. When you partner with ZOO you have access to some of the sharpest minds in the region. Reared in the best agencies in the world, our people are re-thinking what agencies, businesses, and brands think is possible. ZOO Group has agencies in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Singapore and Auckland.

Matt Rose and Alex Wadleton
Matt Rose and Alex Wadleton