Getting Partnerships Right: Lucid Holdings

Getting Partnerships Right: Lucid Holdings


Vital stats

  • Players: Zanele Duma and Thandie Balfour
  • Company: Lucid Holdings
  • Established: 2013
  • Visit:
  • Contact: +27 (0)11 020 0865

Are you going into business with the right person? In the case of Lucid Holdings, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. Here’s what you can learn from them.

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Organisational development consultants Thandie Balfour and Zanele Duma founded their business in 2013, and have since turned it into a consulting powerhouse. Their story drives home key lessons on how best to make a partnership work.

1. Have a successful relationship before you start the company

This is the most important item on the list. Like many great business partners before them, Balfour and Duma have a history of working together. This makes it far less likely that you’ll have a damaging disagreement early on in the life of your business.

“We met in 2007,” Balfour recalls. “With our common interest in industrial psychology and human resources, we often bumped into each other, and eventually ended up working on the same projects. Because it can be lonely out there, we quickly became friends and when we grew tired of working for other people, it made sense for us to form a partnership.”

2. Agree on a shared vision

Nothing can derail a new venture like two people working at cross-purposes. “We agreed upfront on our vision for the business,” says Duma.

“We view the company’s value proposition in the same way, we understand where the business fits in, and we have the same ideas about growth.”

The two founders agreed from the outset that they wanted to challenge the complacency they had spotted in their industry.

“Training is the only solution offered when it comes to organisational development challenges,” says Balfour. “We don’t believe that is right. Going in and assessing a situation properly can reveal other problems, like flawed recruitment or retention strategies.”

3. Settle the money issue upfront

When people are excited about their new venture, they don’t want to get hung up about the money. Yet it can be a killer to assume anything when it comes to cash.

“We agreed on all the issues pertaining to money, including what to do with profit,” says Duma. “We launched the business without any external funding, which has made it simpler in many ways.”

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4. Have compatible skills

Although Balfour and Duma are specialists in their industry, they also have separate, complementary skills and talents. “We function together as a think-tank,” says Balfour.

“If I am on a project, working with a client, and I know that Zanele’s expertise on a particular topic is deeper than mine, I will not hesitate to ask for her help or advice. That sharing of knowledge and acceptance of each other’s strengths is what has enabled us to build a solid partnership, and it has also given us a competitive advantage.

“The competition is rife out there – you certainly don’t need more of it within your own business. On top of that, because we are honest with each other, we are also able to be transparent with clients – we are always clear about our capability and capacity and will not take on anything that lies outside of that.”

5. Share the same values and ethics

Balfour and Duma were operating as two independent consultants prior to teaming up. When they created the Lucid brand, they were both clear on the values and longevity of the brand. “We chose a brand and a name that we believe will reflect what we do for many years to come,” says Balfour.

“As tempting as it might have been from a BEE perspective to have a name that sounds like ‘two black women working together’, we believe that will only get us so far and no further. We want our business to be credible beyond the current economic environment. The name ‘Lucid’ resonated with both of us because it is about having a clear direction and clarity of mind.”

6. Speak, dammit!

Last but not least, Balfour and Duma are great communicators. Communication is one of the most essential leadership skills, and it’s also one of the biggest obstacles for business partners. True communication involves active listening; it’s about being open and non-assumptive.

In Lucid’s case, the partners are clear on their direction over the next couple of years: “Right now, it’s all about growth,” say Duma.

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“Our strategy is to focus on marketing. We’ve earned our good reputation, and now we need to become more visible in the broader market. We will be doing that by educating HR practitioners about our services, and providing lots of content on organisational development through the various channels available to us.

Built on a level of maturity and trust that is seldom as obvious in such a young, dynamic team, Lucid looks set for solid growth.

Monique Verduyn
Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.