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The Yoke Principle Part 2:  Five Factors to Consider when Forming a Partnership

The Yoke Principle Part 2: Five Factors to Consider when Forming a Partnership


Last week I shared my initial thoughts on the “Yoke” Principle in The Yoke Principle Part 1: Ignore this Business Principle at Your Own Peril. In the post I stated that it’s critical that one’s worldview, core values, and general goals be compatible and in sync with an individual they intend to partner or team up with in a venture or relationship.

This week we’ll look at a few of the basic requirements or factors one should assess when determining whether to partner with someone. Following these factors will ensure the greatest probability of success.

Core Values

We’ve already stated this but check and double check this area. Are your core values in sync? For sure no two people will ever align perfectly and to be honest, a partnership’s success is often found in the diversity of strengths that the two partners bring to the table. However, the core values of the partners must be compatible and in unison or it’s probable that the venture will fail, and perhaps even in a spectacular fashion.


Do you share the same goals for the partnership or venture? As oxen pull together beneath their yoke, likewise partners must have the same goals or their efforts will be marginalized and thwarted. Align your goals and your mutual efforts will be compounded and will achieve greater success than those you might realize through your individual efforts.


While partners will frequently not have an equal investment in their venture together, it’s critical that they both have some degree of risk. Consider a scenario where the first partner has significant risk, whether of his capital, reputation or even his time, while the second partner has little to no risk. In such an arrangement, it’s highly likely that the second partner will be tempted to not exert nearly the same level of commitment or concern for the success of the venture. And because of the lack of risk by one of the partners, sooner or later it will begin to strain the relationship and will negatively impact the results of the venture.

Walking in alignment

When one considers a team of oxen under a yoke, it is apparent that the two oxen are walking in unison and side by side. One doesn’t falter behind while the other surges ahead. Or one doesn’t go to the left and the other to the right. Likewise, for a partnership to succeed, the partners must agree on the strategies to achieve their goals. Setting goals is actually quite easy. Where the difficulty often lies is in the development of the strategies to reach the goals. Partners must be able to align their strategies and then work together, within their own individual strengths, to deploy the strategies that will allow them to reach their goals.

Track record

Past history is the best predictor of future results. This truth is one that can apply to so many different scenarios in life. However, when evaluating whether to partner with an individual, one’s track record is something that should always be factored in. Does the prospective partner have a track record of success with others or is he a loner? Does his past suggest that he has failed in other partnerships? If there are warning signals from his past don’t brush those aside. Evaluate them fully and carefully. They may be an indicator as to what may be in store for you.

Clearly, there are many other variables and factors that we might consider as we evaluate whether to align or partner with another individual. And to be sure there is no one size fits all list. However, I believe the above factors are some of the most critical ones that we must answer satisfactorily if we are to “walk together” and realize the success we all desire.

The alternative to a successful partnership is one that none of us want to experience. So, remember this truth as you determine whether to yoke yourself together with that prospective partner: “Can two walk together except they be agreed?”

As you evaluate that next partnership opportunity, I trust these factors will serve to answer this question for you and either propel you to great success or spare you from potential failure.


The Yoke Principle Part 1: Ignore this Business Principle at Your Own Peril

The Yoke Principle Part 1: Ignore this Business Principle at Your Own Peril


In business, as well as in life, there are times when you and I are presented with the opportunity to partner or team up with another company or individual.

Generally on the front end of any such opportunity the positives nearly always seem to dominate our interest and they will often drown out any potential negatives or pitfalls. But as is the case in nearly all opportunities, it’s critical to weigh both the pros and cons.

There is an overriding principle that I have generally sought to follow when I find myself in this situation. When I have, it has consistently spared me a lot of heartache as well as significant dollars. The principle I am referring to is one I call the “Yoke” principle and it is cited in Scripture as “Don’t be unequally yoked…” There is another similar passage that states, “Can two walk together unless they are agreed?” The context of the first passage may deal with a spiritual truth but the general concept of both passages also applies in business as well as in most other areas of life.

As a reminder, a yoke is a device used to team up or connect two animals, often a couple of oxen to pull a plow. The idea is that by binding the two animals together via a yoke, it ensures that their effort is effective, efficient and productive. Without the yoke, it’s likely, if not certain, that the two animals will not walk, work or pull in unison.

In business, the Yoke principle is one of the most important concepts you and I will either validate and enjoy success or violate and reap heartache and financial loss. I know this from personal experience and have realized the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” when I either followed or ignored this truth.

The most obvious instance of my affirming the Yoke principle was when I teamed up in 1990 with my current business partner, Jerry Stout. It’s true that Jerry and I are polar opposites in some areas of our lives, personalities, and skills. But our worldview, core values, and overall goals have been compatible and in sync across these 25 years. This does not mean that there have not been times of great stress and even strong disagreement, but the common values we’ve shared have enabled us to work through the challenging times and enabled us to enjoy many successes together. Perhaps the greatest is the one I recounted in this previous post: The $100 Million Napkin

On the other end of the spectrum, though, I can recall an instance when Jerry and I ignored the Yoke principle when a particular opportunity presented itself back in the late ’90’s. We had been introduced to some businessmen in Las Vegas who presented us with one of those “too good to be true” opportunities. Even though the guys in Vegas did not share our values or business philosophy, we overlooked those facts and partnered up with them to acquire a couple of parcels of land and develop some properties in the Southwest. Sadly, that one relationship ultimately cost us many millions of dollars. And the main reason was because we were unequally yoked with guys we had no business in aligning with.

In my next blog post we’ll talk about some basic requirements to assess when deciding whether to align or partner with someone. We’ll also review some of the repercussion of ignoring the Yoke principle. But as we wrap up today, I encourage you to filter every new opportunity to partner or affiliate with someone through the grid of your own core values and worldview and stay true to those values, no matter what. You won’t be disappointed.


An Entrepreneur’s #1 Partnership

An Entrepreneur’s #1 Partnership


As an entrepreneur and business owner, I have shared my ownership interests with my business partner for 25 years.

I totaled up the hours we have spent under the same roof discussing, planning, fretting, arguing and laughing, and it exceeds 50,000 hours that we’ve been “joined at the hip” legally and working together in a number of businesses. During those years as partners we have experienced the most dramatic highs and debilitating lows.

Given that amount of time and the volume of deals we’ve done, both in terms of sheer quantity as well as in dollar amount, you would think that our business partnership was second to none.  But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

The truth is that in November 1980 the most important partnership I ever entered into occurred with significant fanfare but involved no formal partnership agreement, no drawn up contracts, no negotiating of ownership interests, and in essence none of the routine documentation of an entrepreneurial partnership. In fact the “deal” didn’t even involve a handshake.

Evernote Camera Roll 20150811 004326Rather, the partnership I formed in 1980 was based on love, commitment, trust, integrity, and mutual respect.  By now you probably know to what I am referring: the day I walked down a church aisle and gave away my most precious possession at the time: my life, to my wife.  That was one of the most joyous occasions in my life.

As I think about marriages, and in particular those that involve a spouse who is an entrepreneur, what is truly sad is how many spouses leave their wedding day, following the formation of that sacred partnership, and then begin to slowly and gradually diminish their commitment and attention to that partnership.  The temptation to supersede the marital partnership with a business partnership can grow stronger over time.  I know because at times I too have elevated my business over my marriage.

As entrepreneurs, you and I possess a drive and commitment to success that most will never understand.  The passion that exists within us is something that is nearly unquenchable.  While it may wane from time to time, it is always there and continues to push us on to that next goal, that next project, that next mountain that lies ahead.

This drive can easily result in our assumption that once our marital partnership is in place it is permanently secure and we are then free to pursue with near total abandon our business partnership or enterprise.  But this temptation is a dangerous and deceptive one.  Because there is no partnership from a business standpoint that can even begin to measure with the one that you and I formed at the front of a church.

After 25 years in my business partnership and ten more prior to that as an employee of a large corporation, I have come to realize a truth in the workplace. If your home life is a wreck, your professional life will unravel as well. At a time when my company’s employee count exceeded 1,500 associates in six states with 25 locations, I could nearly always tell when an employee’s marriage was in trouble.  The clue was that his work performance also began to suffer.

So what does this have to do with entrepreneurship?  Well, if you value your business and desire to give it the best opportunity for success, then value your marriage.  Place it ahead of everything and everyone else in life.  Think back to those endearing thoughts and feelings that you had when you stood at the front of a church and pledged your all to your life partner.  But if those thoughts and feelings have diminished, recommit yourself to your #1 partnership.

You can always do a deal, build a business, launch a new product.  But you can never replace a marriage.