We all stand watching as the dancers glide across the dance floor. They move as one, and he leads her with amazing grace and confidence. They are sure to be the winners until she takes the lead away from him.

Two people come together; they both hear the same music, dance in step with one another as they glide across the floor, and win competition after competition. Everything is flowing together perfectly until one partner steals the lead in the middle of the dance. The relationship suddenly changes, and the dancers begin to compete for the lead.

How can we relate this to our business? First, ask yourself: Have you ever been in a business partnership that’s rapidly grown, reaching a high level of success, but suddenly one partner steps out of rhythm and takes the lead in the middle of the dance? I have. It’s painful and I see it happen all the time.

I use the analogy of dancing because that is really what a partnership is—two people dancing in rhythm with each other in business. Dancing requires that one person be the lead and the other follow, but it takes both people to make it work. Both people are equally important.

The partnership works great… That is, great until the business starts to become successful and the partners start working as independent dancers instead of a team. One partner forgets that they are actually half of a partnership, and they begin to take all of the credit for the success of the dance. They act as though it were a solo endeavor, and because of this, the partnership fails and the dancers stumble.

Business people have a tendency to get into partnerships for emotional reasons without a well-developed plan. Two friends decide to partner on a business and, like a marriage, the relationship begins to shift and change over time. The partners begin to take credit for business individually, leading to the relationship’s downfall. Soon after, there is a realization that nothing has been put down in writing—no attorney has reviewed the partnership. It was all based on a handshake and a promise, and now it has failed.

Partnerships must have a well-rounded plan from the beginning to the end. Here are a few things that have to be considered:

  • In the business, what will each person’s responsibilities be?
  • How will family members be handled in the even of death or divorce?
  • What happens to the business if the partnership fails?
  • How does each partner get paid?
  • Who will be responsible for managing the money?

Just like couples who don’t want to sign a prenuptial agreement, business partners don’t like to put anything in writing. After all, we are friends, and it might offend the other person. We trust each other, so we don’t need papers to validate that. However, the reality is this: The music will start to change, the partners will get out of sync, one will steal the lead, resentment will build, and suddenly—as quickly as the business was built—it will all fall apart. It feels like a divorce, emotions run wild, feelings get hurt, and the result is a game of he said/she said.

So heads up, people: If you are going to get involved in a partnership or own a business with another person, put it all in writing! Treat each other respectfully; give credit where credit is due, and remember that you started as a team, not a solo dancer.

The two beautiful ballroom dancers were in the perfect moment to win the competition. Their dance started with trust in one another, but suddenly, one person steals the lead. As for the competition? No one wins.

People often take credit for what is not theirs. They have partners whom they overshadow—something that’s very common in business. Recently, I heard someone give credit for my work to someone else, and that person never corrected the other party, even as I stood there. I was aggravated, pissed off, and even hurt that this person would simply allow my accomplishments to be credited to him.

It made me stop to think about why that happens. Does it happen more often to women than it does to men? Do men take the credit when a woman is the one who created the success, or is it equal across the board? I started talking to a few friends and found out that it goes cross gender.

Why does it happen? Why do people take credit for what they did not achieve alone?

Is it a lack of values? Is it intentional or unintentional? Steve Jobs, for example, is notorious for having taken credit for others’ work and not giving them the credit that they deserved.

Although many will let you believe that they are completely self-made or that they have achieved all that they have on their own, know that no one ever succeeds without help. It takes a village.