We, as a civilization, use the word (business) “partner” much too broadly. Sometimes people call their clients “partners”, and companies use the term for any Tom, Dick, or Harry they sign a contract with. In general, it looks like “engaging in the same activity” or “acting towards a common goal” is enough to be labeled as a partner.

True, unlike most people in this world, these are the ones who would actually notice if you disappeared tomorrow, and most of them would even miss you. But in my view, that makes them “buddies” at best.

Even if your clients really do both want and need what you provide, it’s just a transaction. In most cases, no real bond is forged just because you exchanged regular transactions, at least not by itself.

For someone to be considered your partner, you both need to have “skin in the game”. To illustrate this, let’s observe the classic business fable https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Chicken_and_the_Pig#:~:text=The business fable of The,are not difficult to produce.):

Question: In a bacon-and-egg breakfast, what’s the difference between the Chicken and the Pig? Answer: _The Chicken is involved, but the Pig commits!_

Only when your pricing toward a client has you sharing their pain if the project fails, if the risk is truly shared, then you will be seen as a partner. This is not possible with many clients, and not desirable even in many cases where it is possible. But for those rare few it certainly can be the beginning of something beautiful.


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