Tips for a Healthy Business Partnership

Sarah Wilcox and Evelyn Engert

A successful business partnership is like a marriage: to be successful, you don’t just compromise. You commit.

That observation comes from Sarah Wilcox, who with her business partner Evelyn Engert (both pictured, Sarah on the left), co-founded My Health and Money five years ago to help businesses and consumers navigate the often confusing and complicated waters of healthcare services and products.

Ms. Wilcox says that a commitment can keep the business running smoothly and is critical for both its health and survival. “You share almost as many hours with the business partner as with your significant other,” she states. “A commitment will help keep your relationship strong.”

To give a business partnership the best chance of succeeding, she offers these additional tips…

  • Be aligned on your mission, vision and goals. Ms. Wilcox and Ms. Engert have a shared vision about how to run a company, build a culture, work with people and stay focused on executing the business plan. “Evelyn and I have different professional backgrounds,” she says, “but we both have a passion for building a large company that adds tremendous support to consumers struggling with healthcare expenses and adds value to our investors who believed in us from the start.”
  • Select a partner who has complementary skills. Complementary skills can strengthen the partnership and lead to greater business success. Ms. Wilcox’s background in healthcare and business management complements Ms. Engert’s business-to-business experience. They also have complementary personalities. “Evelyn is totally at ease working a room and has strong operational abilities,” Ms. Wilcox explains. “My strengths are analytics, strategy, negotiations, marketing and product development.”
  • Decide in advance how you will resolve differences. Most partnership conflicts can be resolved with good intentions and the right skills. Ms. Wilcox and Ms. Engert determined early on that they would use the strengths of each partner to help resolve differing opinions. “We let the person driving the decision take the lead,” explains Ms. Wilcox. “For instance, Evelyn has taken the lead on business-to-business sales, so she is more in touch with the marketplace and pricing our online product. I may disagree with her assessment, but in the end, the most important thing to both of us is what is best for the company.”

All happy marriages require a lifetime commitment and willingness to work through tough challenges. Business partnerships are no exception. Follow these tips, and you’ll have a solid platform for success and a strong, profitable business.


About Emilia DiMenco

Emilia DiMenco is President and CEO of Women’s Business Development Center and Retired Executive Vice President BMO Harris N.A. Emilia DiMenco was named president and chief executive officer of the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) on August 1, 2013, a transition from co-founders, Hedy Ratner and Carol Dougal. Emilia joined the Women’s Business Development Center as chief operating officer in July 2010 after completing a 30-year career as an executive vice president with BMO Harris N.A. Emilia had P&L responsibility for 80% of her career and managed budgets in excess of $200 million with revenues multiples greater. Her responsibility included leadership and management for 600 commercial banking employees.