Entrepreneurship is hard, nursing a startup is a massive undertaking, and very few people start out possessing all the needed skills. Sure, you’ll pick up abilities as you go along, but when you start to feel like you’re wearing too many hats it may be time to add a partner to the team.
The ideal partner will provide a different skill set, can function as a sounding board, could help you to make better decisions, and should take a goodly share of the work on his shoulders.
But you may only have one shot at this, and picking the wrong partner could break your business.
CHOOSING A BUSINESS PARTNER IS DIFFERENT FROM CHOOSING AN EMPLOYEE
When you’re burning to make your mark in your industry, romance is probably far from your mind. However, according to some experts, picking a business partner isn’t all that different from picking a romantic partner. Since you will likely spend more time in the company of your business partner than with friends and loved ones, it makes sense to use the same criteria to establish the worth of the person who may hold your future in his hands.
PARTNERSHIPS ARE ABOUT TRUST
Once you’ve found someone with a strong work ethic, similar values, absolute commitment, and a complementary skill set it’s going to come down to a final question: Is he or she worthy of your loyalty and complete trust?
Don’t ignore any uncertainty or hunches about the trustworthiness of your potential partner. Getting along like a house on fire is not a requirement, but knowing that you share the same values and integrity is.
If there is equity involved, you’ll need to be extra careful. You should establish early on whether your prospective partner is financially fit and resilient, therefore early discussions about finances will avoid surprises later.
5 TOOLS FOR VETTING A PROSPECTIVE BUSINESS PARTNER
- Googling combinations of names and phone numbers will quickly reveal possible sources of additional personal information.
- LinkedIn makes it easy to check employment history. You should confirm the information and follow the trail via company websites and social media.
- Run a query on a deep-dive people-search site. Nuwber can provide an in-depth profile that contains information from legal databases, financial and property records, and social media profiles.
- Ask for references from previous clients, and keep in mind that former employers, colleagues, and employees can provide valuable skill and personality assessments.
- Some experts believe that prospective partners should conduct a series of formal interviews to establish each other’s vision and goals.
7 PLACES TO LOOK FOR A BUSINESS PARTNER
Partner-matching platforms specialize in bringing together entrepreneurs who have the same needs and requirements you do. Read on for our list of popular specialist sites where you can list your business requirements and obtain information about potential partners in your industry or niche, but before you go there, try these options first:
- Former co-workers: You already know what their strengths and weaknesses are, and it’s relatively easy to find a good fit.
- Friends: You don’t need to be BFF, but a friend whose personality and skill set compliments your own may be a good option.
- Family: siblings often share the same work ethic and values, and unless your family leans towards continuous conflict and acrimony, you probably trust them more than anyone else.
- Networking: Attend as many industry-related and entrepreneurship training events as possible. Professional associations can provide good opportunities to find someone who shares your vision. You are bound to spot a few prospects.
- Startup Camps: Attend startup camps, events, and conferences. Try BarCamps or Startup Weekend where you’ll be able to judge how well potential partners cope when they are under pressure.
- Licensed, reputable business brokers: Business brokers will, for a fee, help you find a suitable partner or investor. If you can spare the funds, their expert advice may prove valuable, especially when you start drawing up agreements.
- Partner-matching Platforms: It’s never been easier to plug in your requirements and get an appropriate response. Check out these 6 partner-matching platforms:
- CoFoundersLab has a large database of entrepreneurs looking to partner up for ventures.
- techVenture’s Cofounder Network is not open to all-comers, and candidates must follow their membership application and vetting procedure before they’re allowed to join.
- Founder2be is a popular and very accessible platform where you’ll find potential partners from the ranks of other entrepreneurs.
- Cofoundme.org has an extensive searchable database. Run a skills-based query to view possible candidates who conform to the profile you’ve compiled.
- TechCofounder specializes in technology startups. List your requirements and start evaluating applicants.
- FounderDating has a good reputation for matching entrepreneurs and co founders. You’ll have to follow their membership application and vetting procedure to get access.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK BEFORE YOU START THE SEARCH
If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you won’t find what you need. Take some time now to define why you need a partner and what your requirements are. It will limit dithering, so you will save time later!
- Revisit your business plan to pinpoint the areas where you need help, and then establish what skills you should be looking for.
- Establish your strengths and weaknesses. Pick a partner who can pick up where you left off.
- Don’t put an agreement on paper before you’ve met your prospective partner in person. Even the most impressive Curriculum Vitae won’t matter if you just don’t gel when you meet face to face.
- Partners should be equally hungry for success. That’s what’s going to restrain the one from having daily long lunches, and the other from dipping into the petty cash for cocktail hour freebies.
- Pick someone who has a passion for the industry. You’ll typically find that a person who pursues his craft outside of regular business hours is driven by passion, which will reflect in their work.
- Establish clear expectations and quantifiable goals for the role each of you will play.
- Establish personal and professional boundaries upfront, especially if the partner is a friend or family.
- Stipulate your expectations and put it in writing. Don’t settle for a handshake agreement – draw up a legal agreement before the commencement of the partnership.
Put an exit plan in place, especially if you partner up with a friend or family so that you don’t get entangled in a messy breakup if things go wrong. You may be able to rebuild your business if you have to, but relationships are much harder to mend.