Is your business partner driving you mad blogpost for estate agents by Sam Ashdown

Having a partner is hard, whether that’s in business, or in life.

And in our case, both.

Because my business partner, Phil Jones, is also my son-in-law.

And my friend.

We’ve worked together for seven years now. That’s longer than many marriages.

I was reflecting on our successful relationship this morning as we went for a run together. We’re in Florida on a family holiday, and I was dying in the heat.

Phil loves running in the hot weather, and he’s also a really good runner. I’m not.

His 8-minute-mile pace is his easy pace; that’s a sprint for me.

But we still run together every now and again, even though on paper, we’re entirely incompatible running partners.

I think back to when Phil and I first launched AshdownJones.

He had zero experience in business. And zero knowledge of the property industry.

I had a thirty-year head start on him.

I’d read hundreds of books on entrepreneurship, marketing, growth strategy and more.

He was as green as they come.

But our differences soon became our biggest strengths.

Phil didn’t know you weren’t ‘supposed to’ knock on the doors of high-value homes.

He didn’t question our 1.5% non-negotiable fee.

He assumed it was normal to invest a huge amount of time, effort and money on making sure every home we took to market looked amazing.

Because he knew he needed to learn, fast, he committed to being coachable.

His naivete was our trump card.

Phil and Noah in our first AJ office last April 2017

Phil (25) and Noah (7 months) in our first AJ office (aka my dining room) – April 2017

Seven years on, and our successful partnership is based on eight key principles:

1. We don’t allow any resentment to creep into the relationship
2. We don’t blame or judge, even when an idea fails
3. We wholeheartedly support each other in our ideas or initiatives, even if the other one doesn’t think it will work
4. In a divided issue, we agree to go with whoever has the strongest opinion
5. We embrace our differences, and support the other’s weaknesses where our strengths lie
6. We never undermine the other – in public or in private
7. We accept criticism and feedback with an open mind and heart
8. We each take 100% responsibility to make sure the relationship is as strong as it can be.

Having coached and mentored over a hundred business partnerships over two decades, I see the rot creep in when any of these key principles are breached. And once they are allowed to fester, things deteriorate really quickly. Just like any broken relationship, each one blames the other for the problem, and those little idiosyncrasies that you both once thought so charming are now driving you to distraction on a daily basis.

If this is happening to you, sit down together, away from the office, and ask yourselves these questions:

  • Do we want to make this work?
  • If not, what do we each want to do about it?
  • If yes, are our end goals in alignment?
  • Do we have compatible values?
  • Do we agree on the big things?
  • Can we compromise on the little things?

Have an open and honest conversation, and take the time to really listen to the other person’s point of view. Differing perspectives can be healthy and productive for your business when embraced, not resisted.

And if that doesn’t work, go for a run with your business partner and see where that takes you.

Sam and Phil in training for 50-mile ultra-marathon

Me and Phil in training for our 50-mile ultra-marathon


When you’re ready, here are 3 ways we can help you:

1. Reach out for a call with Sam – choose from three different calls to help you overcome your specific challenges. All free and without strings. Grab a coffee and let’s get to work.

2. Come and spend the day with Phil and me, at AshdownJones’ HQ, in our beautiful Lake District. Meet the team, check out our systems and marketing, and enjoy meeting like-minded (non-competing) agency owners. We’ll even put on lunch! Book your place here.

3. Join our Facebook community of super-ambitious independent agents.

Hope to catch up with you soon and find out how you’re growing your business!

Till then,


Sam Ashdown, an independent estate agent

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