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Brewery co-founder gives tips on managing business partners

Brewery co-founder gives tips on managing business partners

So, you’re an entrepreneur. That probably means that your name could be Ms./Mr. Independent. You know how to get sh*t done, you pave a way where there isn’t a way, and you’re obviously a self-starter. So, why do you hear about entrepreneurs who choose to start businesses together? What would cause an independent person like you to want a business partner?

For Jeff Orr and Graham Sherman—founders of Tool Shed Brewing Co.—the choice was natural. “Graham and I met while working on military satellite communications contracts in Afghanistan,” recalls Jeff. “We quickly learned that we both shared a passion for taking our hobbies too far.” When they came back to Canada, they bounced from hobby to hobby together until they started home-brewing beer in Graham’s backyard tool shed.

And as they grew from brewing in the backyard to a full-blown business, it was a no-brainer that they’d do it together. “We started home-brewing as partners and it was only natural to pursue the business as partners,” shares Jeff. “We’d worked together in a war zone, which made us business partners before we knew we would be opening a brewery.”

Even though both Jeff and Graham are resourceful self-starters, Jeff revealed the most incredible part of having a business partner. “It’s an amazing thing to have someone who’s as invested in something as you. It can be challenging to convey what you’re going through to friends and even family, but your business partner knows intimately what it feels like.”

Adding another person to the mix—as with any relationship—means conflict will crop up, “but knowing that you both have the company’s interests at heart makes it easier,” says Jeff.

Jeff’s top 5 tips for working with a business partner

  1. You don’t want to work with yourself. Find someone who’s equally passionate about the business as you but sees the world through a different lens. Graham and I are 180 degrees opposite as people, but the success of the business is a product of those two mindsets.
  2. Make sure your share structure mirrors the work each partner is willing to do. It’s fine if someone has to do more work than another, but if that’s not discussed early on it will surely lead to animosity.
  3. Find someone who has the same dream as you do.​
  4. Find someone who challenges your ideas and your comfort zone.
  5. Start a business that you’re equally passionate about. Passion for profits is great but it will only get you so far.


Looking for more advice to help you start your business? Check out our entrepreneur’s guide—it’s full of resources for self-starters like you.

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ATB Financial

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