Are You a Sower or a Reaper?

Because it’s so easy to cut a crappy partnership deal, I have often quipped that “a partnership is a sinking ship.” An arrangement to be avoided if possible, and if undertaken, one to be treated like a marriage.

The problem with this advice is that co-founder partnerships have proven themselves to be extremely powerful in our community. I noticed at this year’s DCBKK event that many of the most successful businesses were based on a solid partnership. But if finding a good partner is something akin to finding a good romantic relationship, how do you do it?

I was chewing on this lately when I came across a two person blog business called Wait But Why. Here’s how they described their partnership:

Tim being sowerly and Andrew being reaperly.

Tim being sowerly and Andrew being reaperly.

Aside from being funny, and in many ways describing the relationship I have with my co-founder Ian, it struck me as an archetypical partnership style that I’m seeing in our community.

There’s one “sower” personality and one “reaper.”

In the past we’ve called this “marriage model,” but relating business partnerships to finding life partners doesn’t shed much light on how you can create a successful one yourself. The “sower and reaper” distinction helps to show one way these business unions can happen.

Ask yourself, are you a sower or a reaper? Might you benefit from seeking your opposite in a partner?

Sowers vs. Reapers

Before the sale vs. After the sale.
Marketing vs. Capacity.
Search vs. Destroy.
The Ultimate Sales Machine vs. Work The System
Writes blogs vs. Writes invoices.
Drums up interest for brand vs. Drums up interest with partners.
Going to conferences vs. Going to suppliers.
On stage vs. Behind the curtain.
Writing sales pages vs. Writing deals.
Constructing offers based on feedback from clients vs constructing processes based on feedback from team members and mentors.
Re-thinking the structure of the team vs re-thinking the structure of client management.
Top line and reach vs Bottom line and sustainability.

A sower’s job is to build long term asset value. A reaper’s job is to selectively and systematically make harvests that do not exhaust the long term potential of the market.

Sharing the exhaustion and excitement of throwing events.

Sharing the exhaustion and excitement of throwing events.

Not a division of labor, but a multiplication of results.

The promise of sower / reaper relationships isn’t that you’ll get “double the amount done.” They have the potential to deliver much more than that. Switching from sowing to reaping activities takes energy and hurts momentum. Over the years, that adds up. When you focus on one thing, sowing or reaping, your efforts can multiply and compound. Solo-founders often find themselves yo-yoing back and forth to front and back of house, trying to keep both plates spinning smoothly.

“Bloggin’ sower seeks reaper!”

Sower / reaper relationships are behind many of the blog based businesses who’ve actually made it work. Often blogger-sowers  fall in love with the writing (to the detriment of their businesses and their chops), and devolve into blogs-blogging-about-business-about-blogging-about-business, or similar. The writers simply have no time to do anything else but put out decent articles. It’s the reason many practitioner/preachers who consistently publish do so with podcasts. Many of those struggling with blogs (but who love them) would benefit from finding a reaper personality to run the backend of the business.

A marriage of sower and reaper.

The partnerships I’ve seen work consistently are like marriages– and reaper / sower is a common type of marriage model partnership that I’m seeing succeed. There is an agreed upon division of duty that is flexible and often changes because the deal isn’t fundamentally about resources– it’s about the faith that you’ll both bring your best energy to the interests of your company.

It works because building businesses is generally difficult stuff, so having somebody to share the burden with is worth it.


We often say “you can’t hire somebody to grow your business for you,” and that’s true, but, you can partner with somebody to grow your business with you, and very often the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Are you a sower or a reaper?

And if you are very clearly one, would you benefit from finding someone who could be your other?




PS, here’s some podcasts we’ve recorded on this topic:

10 Ways to Cut a Crappy Deal
The Marriage Model of Partnerships
The Bootstrapper’s Guide to Business Partnerships

Illustration: Maggie Appleton