“I'm not upset that you lied to me, I'm upset that from now on, I can't believe you.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche
“Trust is like a mirror, you can fix it if it's broken, but you can still see the crack in that mother fucker's reflection.” ― Lady Gaga
In any partnership, trust is paramount. Whether between partners in a venture capital fund, co-founders of a business, or two life partners, the trust formed between people is the bedrock and foundation on which anything and everything is built. A shaky foundation - perhaps more than any other factor - limits the size of the opportunity for greatness. This concept is particularly fresh in my mind as I prepare to begin my own marriage in a few weeks, but has been a persistent theme that I've witnessed again and again since the beginning of my career. Establishing, reinforcing and defending a rock solid partnership is vital to setting up the framework for success in any endeavor. There are many ways to accomplish it, but on a fundamental level, it requires mutual engagement, total honesty and real respect. If any of these qualities are violated, repairing the relationship can be incredibly difficult - sometimes impossible, as Lady Gaga and Nietzsche skillfully describe above.
As we know, building a business is incredibly challenging with the deck stacked squarely against you, and the competition aiming to gun you down. Success requires a lot of hard work and a good amount of luck. When you combine the challenge of maintaining a strong partnership between founders with the challenge of building a business, it doesn't leave a lot of room for error. In cases where the trust between partners has been broken beyond reproach, swift action is typically required to preserve chances for success of the business. I’ve seen this happen in several businesses and the only reliably workable solution when trust is lost is for one person to exit the company. Otherwise, the problem festers and never truly goes away. The challenge of building a business is simply too great - and life is too short - to accept anything less than trust and respect.