When it comes to business, going it alone is overwhelming, scary and risky. As much as we’d like to succeed alone, none of us wants to walk the journey to success alone.
Pretty ironic isn’t it?
I guess that’s where the whole idea of ‘two heads are better than one’ comes in. When you have someone to walk with you, someone who understands what you are going through as you establish your business, your fears and worries subside.
Now let me be clear; this isn’t a case of hand holding. You don’t want to find someone who will say yes to all your ideas, assure you that you haven’t messed up when you have, and provide a shoulder to cry on because you cry too much.
What you need is a partner; someone who you can share your ideas with, someone who’ll shoulder the burden and risk, and someone who’ll hold you accountable for your actions.
In some circles, partners are referred to as professional ass-kickers (ok maybe I made that one up).
It’s not cowardly to want someone in the bad times and in the good. In fact, many successful companies were founded by 2+ people.
Unfortunately, there is no business partner market where you can pick and choose from an array of selections. Luckily for you, I’ve come up with a checklist that you can use when searching for your ideal business partner.
The Complete Business Partner Checklist
The bad news is that a high percentage of startups will fail because co-founders have conflicts that they are unwilling or unable to resolve. The good news is, if you do your due diligence beforehand, you can avoid a failed partnership.
Make sure that your potential business partner fits the following criteria before you bring them onboard:
A partner is useless if you cannot count on them. I can’t imagine working countless of hours to prepare a proposal for a new product, only to find out that my partner failed to deliver it on time.
This hasn’t happened to me, but just typing it out makes me mad. Always choose a partner that you can rely on to get things done, especially when you can’t.
Just as important as reliability, is responsibility and accountability. There is a lot of work to do as a startup entrepreneur, and you can’t afford to pick a partner that is irresponsible.
Who wants to show up to work to find that their partner has lost the only mock-up available? Not me, and not you!
At the same time, you need a partner who is accountable for their actions. We aren’t children, and we shouldn’t play the blame game. If you find someone who is accountable for their actions, then you are assured that they’ll stand behind their decisions and admit their mistakes.
Business partnership is just like marriage. When you bring in a business partner you gain a work wife or work husband, only without the pomp, ceremony, and Bora-Bora vacation that comes with a ring.
It is therefore important for you to choose someone that you can get along with. If your partner grates on your nerves, then your attitude towards each other will create division in your business and among your employees. Additionally, you should find someone who is willing to sit down, listen, talk, and compromise when conflicts arise.
The most important criterion for choosing the right business partner is trust. You need someone you can trust to handle big clients, lead employees, and take care of finances. The last thing you need to worry about is your partner screwing you over and stealing your customers.
Before you make a final decision, get references for your potential partner, and look at their past projects and working relationships.
You cannot be the only one hustling in your business. Find someone who shares your passion and work ethic, as you are assured that they will get the job done. When you are partnering with someone with similar drive, you will be motivated to deliver your best each and every time.
Ο Distinct but complementary skill set
When your skill set mirrors that of your partner, your ability to grow and learn is inhibited. That is why you need to find a partner with a different skill set which manages to complement yours.
Steve Jobs couldn’t write code, but Steve Wozniak was a tech genius. Wozniak created the brilliant Apple computer, and Jobs vision and marketing ability sold it. Distinct but complementary!
Ο Personality and values
Your partner’s values should fit within the culture you aim to create for your business. Similarly, their personality should balance yours.
If you’re emotional, look for some who values logic. If you’re brash, look for someone patient and calm. However, sometimes a person’s skill set will be able to make up for their terrible personality.
It is vital for your partner’s vision to align with yours. If this does not happen, your business will lack direction.
If your vision is to provide value to your community, but theirs is to expand revenue even if value is sacrificed, what will your end product or service look like? Establish a vision at the beginning, and create a long-term plan that aims to achieve that vision. This way you won’t clash about how to run the business.
If you’re new to business, then look for someone who has in-depth knowledge of your niche. Similarly, if you’re knowledgeable about your niche you can partner with someone new to the niche, as they will offer a different perspective on approaching the market and innovating products and services.
Where to Look for a Business Partner
1. Friends and family: Many people are wary about getting into business with friends and family, as personal and professional differences can negatively impact the business and the relationship.
While Adolf and Rudolf Dassler started off working together at the Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory, their disintegrating relationship eventually spawned Puma and Adidas.
Despite the risk, you must remember that today’s biggest companies started off as family-run businesses- Wal-Mart, Tuskys, Woolworths, Warner Bros. and Mars, to name a few. When you partner with friends and family, the trust factor is high (unless you’re dysfunctional), you probably share values, and you can put up with each other when you’re in the worst of moods.
2. Network: As an entrepreneur, you can never have enough contacts. When looking for a partner, go to networking events, join online forums, surf through job boards, participate in social media groups, create a LinkedIn account, become a member of a professional association in your niche, use Google search, and browse your local paper.
Find out where people in your industry are spending time, and then go out of your way to form connections. You can find a great partner this way.
3. Mentors: It is always important to have someone to guide you on your entrepreneurial journey. A mentor will help you avoid pitfalls and make wise decisions due to their extensive experience. So why don’t you take advantage of their experience by partnering up with them on a new idea or venture?
Their experience and your innovation can spawn a successful enterprise that you can both be proud of.
4. Colleagues: If you’re coming off a 9-5 job, then a great place for you to start looking for a partner is at work. This is perfect as you’ve had the chance to work with someone and analyze their style. You already know what skills they have, and if you’ve worked closely then you know how to get the best out of each other.
You can already determine how they fit into your startup, and you don’t have to worry about them coming in hangovered because you know their personality and work ethic.
5. Competitors: Competitors are often seen as the enemy; maybe it’s because in business they are. However, in the past competitors have merged to present an even more efficient and successful enterprise. Nokia and Siemens merged their telecom equipment units in 2007 for more powerful networking abilities.
You can opt to go the joint venture route and partner with your competitor for a certain amount of time. Your competitors might offer manpower and machinery, and you can offer money and the original idea. As you can imagine, this method is more suitable for businesses that are established (sorry startups).
6. Other startups: There are thousands if not millions of startups around the world, and many of these startups aim to provide a similar product or service to yours.
So if your idea is to provide cat butler service and another startup aims to provide a dog butler service, how about you sit down, talk, and come up with a plan to create a pet butler service. Your combined passion, expertise, network, and resources can yield better results than if you go it alone.
There’s also less chance of you becoming one of the many startups that fails if you combine ideas to create a super idea.
7. Education mate: Education mate covers high-school mates, college mates, and industry training mates. Anyone that you’ve studied with, trained with, and/or specialized with is a great person to partner with.
You know how they work, and if you socialized with them then you know what their personality and values are. Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin met at Stanford University, and so did HP founders Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard; look how that turned out.
There are a lot of things to consider before you go into a partnership, but if you stumble onto the right person, then your effort is worth it.
However, you need to be an ideal partner as well, so be sure to check your strengths and weaknesses.
And remember; don’t rush the process, as you are looking to find a partner for the long term.
If you found this helpful, share it with your friends and colleagues. Also drop me a comment telling me about any partnerships you’ve enjoyed or regretted. And before you leave, sign up to the newsletter for firsthand updates on new posts.
Have a great week, and I’ll see you back on Monday.