Posted over 5 years ago

Partners - Triumph or Tragedy?

I have been part of and seen many great partnerships. I have also seen and been part of some not so great partnerships. What I have learned over the last 13 years in real estate is that partners are essential to success, but they can also single handedly derail your deals, your career, and your dreams.

To reach your potential you need to use them, so let's talk about reasons you would want partners and a few reasons why you don't.


I have seen partners work so well that it has literally made people millionaires. One client always comes to mind when I talk about partnerships. This duo has been able to amass a fortune that would not have been possible separately. They should each clear a million dollars in income this year, and have started building a nice little nest egg of rental real estate. Here are two reasons it worked for them and could work for you.

When you lack something

The number one key for a successful partnership is when the partners each bring something to the table, making the company or joint venture stronger. One common example I see is when one person has a large network, experience, and a knack for finding deals, while the other one is real analytical and can run the numbers and line up the financing. Another example on more of a deal by deal case that I see a lot is one person with the deal and the other with the money or the credit. The point is, each person brings value and each person benefits from the other. The last thing you want is to partner with someone who brings the same value as you.

Spread risk

I have structured a handful of partnerships with larger deals when there is a lot of upside, but just as much downside. Most of the time in these partnerships, I stay in control and manage everything (this of course is agreed to by all the partners.) I will use some partners as advisors and we may have votes for major decisions, but most of the time the partners are passive investors just looking to add cash to the group for a return on their money. This is a great way to do large deals, because it gives you the ability to do them and it will spread your risk over a group of people instead of loading up all your cash into one deal.


Although I have seen partnerships turn ordinary people into million dollar performers, I have also seen partnerships put people into bankruptcy. I have also seen partnerships ruin friendships and marriages. This is not to be taken lightly. Here are a few downsides.

Trouble in Paradise

The saying "it is good until it isn't" could not be more true than when dealing with a partner. A partnership is going to be much like a marriage. If it goes bad it is not always easy to get out of, and sometimes it could cause both emotional and financial disaster. You don't marry someone unless you are fairly certain it is going to work, so I suggest you approach your partnership with the same caution.

Things will go wrong and the arrangement will be tried. The key for this to work is that you have a plan when the unexpected happens and the ability to work through it. A good partnership agreement is the first step, but it goes beyond that. ONE person needs to be in charge to make the final decisions, unless you have an odd number of partners and agree to go to a vote. If you want to do everything 50/50, then have a plan in place for when there is a disagreement. Who will ultimately make the final decision? It is also a good idea to have a buyout clause where either partner can get out if necessary, for a price.

Partnerships are not always paradise, which is ok. You just need to plan for the rain.

Giving up profit

I see this a lot when the discussion of how expensive hard money is comes up. I just heard this again last month at a class I did in Colorado Springs. Someone who is out there doing deals said that he cannot justify paying 15% interest for the short term loan because it was much higher than he could get at a bank. Of course I understand that, and I believe that although it is a great tool, hard money is neither for everyone nor for every situation. In this guy’s case, I was going to agree that he should not be using hard money if he can get bank loans and is ok limiting the number of deals he could do. That is when he told me that he really is not limiting himself by using banks with large down payment requirements. He said that he had plenty of cash partners that put up the money for the down payments. "What do they get for putting up the money for the down payment?" was my next question. The response??? 50% of the profit! Ouch! I said either you are doing marginal deals or I think you might learn something in this class. If you are doing profitable deals, my guess is hard money is much cheaper than 50% of the profit. Of course you are not spreading your risk like we talked about, but the idea that hard money was too expensive was not really a good argument. After going through the class I was able to show him when and where hard money might come into play, and showed him how it would be cheaper for him than using a partner. I guess we will see what happens, but he said he loved the class and will be calling us for his next deal.

In this example, it might not make since to spread your profit because you really don't need the partner. If the response was he wanted to spread risk or this guy found the deal, or knows something I don’t, etc., my response would have been different; but simply sharing so much of your profit when you have other resources did not make since in his case.

There is no doubt that partners are a huge part of reaching your potential, but it is not without risk. Please use them wisely. I am sure you noticed that "fun" or "working with someone you like" is not listed as an advantage. The decision to use a partner cannot be based on your emotions. The decision needs to be business in nature and both partners need to bring a unique skill set or something the other does not have to the table, or you are destine for disaster. 

Comments (2)

  1. Great words of wisdom. Well said DL.

  2. Investing in people (and a partner) is one of the most rewarding actions that we as humans do in this life. It also has the potential for much pain, be it emotional, or as in the case of a real estate partner, financial. 

    For me, the key is to truly wish nothing but the greatest success for the people with whom I make the decision to emotionally invest in. On all levels. When a friend has a tremendous success in his business, I rejoice. When that same friend experiences a divorce or some other hardship, I suffer with him.

    In business partnerships, I believe that there can be no room for envy, greed or spite. I would never partner with anyone whom I didn't also have some type of "connection" with on a personal level. I "need" to see that partner "prosper" because of his affiliation with me. 

    The same would go for using a hard money lender. There are many hard money lenders out there. I would find one whom I liked. I would find a HML who has the same goals as I do (support his/her family and make money while always striving to treat people right) rather than do business with a HML who is simply seeking to maximize his personal profit without regard to what happens to the humans involved in the deal. I would "give my business" to a HML whom I liked and whom I wanted to "help get rich." Good for him/her (and his family) and good for me (and my family).

    This life is way too short. The last thing that I want to do is be involved with people (or business partners) whom "take away" from my life rather than "add to" my life.

    Thanks for the article.