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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.

Mark