Want to Foster a Successful Business Partnership?

Take a look at these partners, who are still going strong after 18 years.


Some relationships stand the test of time and some, unfortunately, don’t (rest in peace Brangelina!). The difference between a short-lived and a long term pairing is often the work that goes into maintaining it. Take Kaye Scott and Lisa Sullivan-Smith – the twosome who founded The Clinic, one of Sydney’s leading cosmetic clinics – and their 18 year partnership in business. Considering the average Australian marriage lasts just under nine years, a long-term business partnership (which is arguably fraught with just as many, if not more, trials and tribulations) is true testament to a very specific type of hard work, on both the business and personal fronts. Founded in 1999, The Clinic, and its founding partners, are still going strong. Here’s what they’ve learnt from 18 years in business together.


Why was going into business together the ‘right’ choice for you?

Lisa: Kaye and I came from similar backgrounds – we are both registered nurses who were coincidentally working in the pharmaceutical industry when we met. We noticed a gap in the market for a luxe, professional clinic focused on premium customer service and the business started from there.

Kaye: We had the same goals. We shared a vision. That is what started it. As a business partner, Lisa is clinically outstanding and passionate about what she does.

Lisa: From our first meeting, Kaye and I got on really well socially. We just clicked. We have been best friends, like sisters almost, for 18 years. It’s uncommon to have that sort of relationship with your business partner, but that’s why it works!


What do you consider to be the best business qualities about one another?

Kaye: Lisa’s professionalism, attention to detail – she is a perfectionist – and that she is a high achiever.

Lisa: She’s a great thinker and is always coming up with new ideas, but she’s also quick to make a decision, which is really important for a small business.


What are the biggest advantages of having a business partner?

Kaye: The biggest advantage is having support, especially as we’re both mums; we understand the importance of family and the balance that is needed. It’s also great having a partner who has different qualities: it brings another perspective to decision making.

Lisa: The biggest advantage is being able to bounce ideas off each other and having that constant support and encouragement. It’s been a really positive partnership.


What do you think is the secret to your success as partners?

Kaye: We didn’t have a history prior to starting The Clinic. The secret has been having two people who are good at different things but want the same thing – and trust in each other to deliver that goal.

Lisa: We share in the ambition to succeed, to continue to succeed and to grow the business. This means nothing is stale and constantly evolves. We haven’t had a single fight in 18 years. Trusting in each other is so important.


How do you resolve differing opinions?

Kaye: We are very rational decision makers and will sit down and nut it out to come to an agreement. We both speak our minds but we trust and respect one another’s opinion. And at the end of the day, if we feel we need outside help, we are open to asking for it.

Lisa: We’re always brainstorming and always communicating. We’re both very fair and let the person with an idea, develop and grow – I don’t always agree on everything!!


After eighteen years working together, how do you decided which battles are worth fighting? Do things get easier as time together progresses?

Kaye: The battles worth fighting are always those I believe are best for the business.

Lisa: I used to be too scared to voice my ideas, but I’ve learnt to trust both my own and Kaye’s ideas. I’m more opinionated in the business now because I’ve had the experience. Ultimately, if it’s positive for the business, ít’s worth fighting for.


What’s the one thing someone should know about going into business with a partner?

Lisa: Business is hard work and hands on. One of us is always at The Clinic and it’s been that way for 18 years.

Kaye: I think the most important thing is to have a clear agreement from the beginning so there are no blurred lines. Have a shared vision for the business, but also of your partner’s expectations – the work conditions, the hours, the dos and don’ts. It’s better not to mix business with pleasure, so the rules need to be in place.

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