As an entrepreneur who is just starting a business, you will have a strong temptation to do everything on your own. After all, who would want to go through the hassle of finding a business partner – what if your choice turns out to be something that’s horribly wrong?
However, running a business is not easy and if you’re going to do it all alone, you would be giving yourself a lot to do and a lot of roles to play. The amount of work required to be done, especially when you are just starting a business and do not have the resources to hire employees to handle at least some of the responsibilities are massive and can be overwhelming.
That’s why you should consider finding a business partner. Having a business partner will help you distribute some of the workload, get you someone to bounce ideas off, and benefit from having someone who cares just as deeply about the issues concerning your business as you do.
Identifying the Perfect Business Partner
So how to know if a person would make for the perfect business partner? There are 5 major factors to consider, that will make your choice easier.
Do they compliment your personality?
You should look for business partners who are not too similar to you, who have strengths and possess skills that you don’t have yourself. They should complement your skills and your experience. As they say in a marriage or a perfect romantic relationship – your business partner should complete you. If you are financially reckless, find a business partner who is very learned in financial issues. If you are not comfortable meeting with clients or making presentations, find a business partner who likes doing these things.
Do you trust your business partner?
A business partnership is all about trust. If you don’t trust someone, you should never form a partnership with them. Would you marry someone who you don’t trust? It’s the same with business partnership as well. If you have only recently met with your prospective business partner, spend some time with them and get to know them as much as possible, before forming the business partnership with them.
Know the limits of your business relationship
A business partnership is not a romantic relationship. Don’t ask a female friend to be your business partner just because you are romantically interested in her, and are hoping the being your business partner would draw her closer to you. Business and relationship should be kept strictly separate. Even if your business partner is also your spouse, don’t discuss issues related to your marriage or children at the workplace. Business should be strictly about business. The last thing you want is for things to get awkward with your business partner.
Is your business partner ambitious?
So how ambitious is your business partner? Are they driven to succeed? You don’t want to select someone as your business partner who are too relaxed for their own good. They should share the same passion that you do for the business and should be determined to make the startup succeed. You shouldn’t be the person doing all the work; otherwise it could lead to a lot of resentment.
Is your business partner an expert in a field that you are not too familiar with?
It can work to your advantage if your business partner has skill sets, training and experience that are different from that of yours. Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer were perhaps the greatest business partners ever – the two men built Microsoft and made it the force that it is today. And they had very different skill sets – Gates was a brilliant programmer while Ballmer was terrific at marketing. So, when looking for a business partner, find your own Steve Ballmer.
So, where do you find a business partner like that? There are several places where you could go looking for a business partner. Let’s have a look at them.
Look for Business Partners Among Your Co-Workers, Past and Present
One of the easiest ways to look for a business partner is to find one among your co-workers, those who worked with you in the past, or from among those who are currently working with you. Since you have already worked with them, you should be pretty familiar with their working style and know what to expect. You will know, for example if your co-worker is hardworking, honest and can be relied upon. Are they are sort who arrive late to very meeting or are they sticklers for time? Can you trust them with your money? Since you have, in all likelihood, worked a lot with them in the past, there are unlikely to be any surprises in store for you.
Going into a Business Partnership with a Friend
Going into a business partnership with a friend is a very obvious thing to do – but there are a lot of experts who strictly advice against it. There are pros and cons to finding a business partner among your friends. First, let’s look at the advantages. One, you already know your friends, you know their strengths and weaknesses, you know what makes them tick, and what ticks them off. You know whether you can rely upon them or not. And if both of you share complementary skills – say, your friend is an accountant and you are a designer – it’s a partnership made in heaven.
However, partnering with friends has one serious drawback. What if the business fails? Will your friendship survive a business failure? What if there are disagreements between the two of you on issues related to business? Will your partner use his or her friendship to make you do things that you don’t agree with? Will there be any emotional blackmail of any sort? A business should be about strictly business – there’s no room for emotions in business. But that may not be possible when your business partner is also your best friend.
Use Networking to Your Advantage
There are several professional networks of business executives which you can use to find a business partner. LinkedIn is of course the most popular social network for professionals. You can look up LinkedIn for professionals who match the skill-set and experience you are looking for. Ideally, you should look for business partners whose skills complement those of yours and with whom you click from the very first moment. He or she doesn’t have to become a friend – you are not looking for friends here – but they should be someone you can trust implicitly. They should have at least something in common with you, such a strong work ethic or a commitment to excellence. There are a number of professional or trade associations where you will be able to find such a business partner, so keep looking.
Forming a Business Partnership with a Family Member
A lot of people form business partnerships with a sibling or with their spouse. This is something we would generally advice against, as there is always a strong potential for conflict when you are running a business together with someone who is so close to you. For sure, if you share a perfect understanding with them, and have an agreement to keep your relationship completely different from business, then this can work well enough for you. However, that is easier said than done. If the business takes a turn for the worse, it will certainly have a bearing on your relationship with them. Or if your relationship takes a turn for a worse, for example, if you are considering divorcing your spouse, who is also your business partner – for reasons that are unrelated to the business – that will certainly have an effect on the business as well. So forming a business partnership with a family member is something we advise against, but if you think you will be able to carry it off, then you should go for it. After all, many of the most successful businesses of our time are family owned businesses.
Find Business Partners at a Trade Seminar or at an Industry-related Training
Another way to find a business partner is at a trade or industry seminar, where you will find like minded professionals. So if you are planning to start a real estate business, visit a real estate seminar or a property trade show, meet and network with the other participants and find out if there are any with whom you get along fine. Also look for business partners in a business development course or entrepreneurship class, if you happen to take one.