I honestly can’t recall how many startups I’ve been involved with, and although many of them started out as a solo endeavor, I’ve appreciated the value of what a partner can really bring to a business. You may even think that bringing on a partner after being in business on your own for several years isn’t possible, but in fact a savvy business partner could actually help scale your venture in ways you couldn’t have imagined.
I’m sure you know what it’s like to try and manage every aspect on your own, at least this is usually what occurs in those individual start up situations, but having a partner can really help divide the workload and bring another perspective that allows your business to grow and thrive.
Here are a few tips to consider when choosing a partner:
First, make sure you’re aligned:
Whatever your mission and philosophy of the business, you need to ensure that you and your partner are aligned with those same values. Achieving those values takes work, so you also need to make certain that you have the same understanding about “hustle” and putting in that sweat equity. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be working the exact same hours of the day. Maybe you like to rise early and get cracking on those tasks, but your business partner may like to start a little later and even end work later in the day.
On a similar note however if you’re putting in 12-15 hours a day versus your partner’s 5-6 hours and you’re unable to scale your business as it needs to be, then you might have an issue. Set these expectations prior to embarking on this venture together.
You don’t need another you:
Keep in mind that having the same values is essential to the success of your business, but also having different skill sets and abilities will allow you to extend the scope of what your business can provide.
If you’re great at running the operations aspect of your business while your partner provides the creative flow for your clients or products, then this complimentary set of skills can help round out what your business needs to drive it forward.
I do recommend at least having a broad overview of what each other does in the company. It’s ideal to have a Yin and Yang approach, but this way if your business partner isn’t able to make a meeting with a client, at a minimum you can articulate a broad sense of what your company can offer.
A great example of this are the fees that are tied to your services. If you’re primarily the creative juice for your business and your partner handles all of the fee negotiations, it might be prudent to actually pay attention during those negotiations and look at those numbers. Again, if for some reason you’re flying solo on a pitch to a client and they inquire about the costs involved you should be able to give them some idea of the value proposition.
On the flip side of that, if you’re the negotiation queen of the business who handles putting a value to each line item and your client asks you about the actual process of offering the services and how long it will take, you should have some sense of what that might look like. Even casually mentioning to a client that you can deliver a product or service in an amount of time that is actually unrealistic isn’t a great way to start things off, even if it’s not an official business pitch.
“Date” first before committing:
How do you get to that place where you’re aligned with the vision and hustle of your business with your partner? Well, I’m sure most of us have played the field to figure out who was a good match for us before committing to an exclusive relationship, and this approach should also be considered when finding your partner in business.
Believe it or not, there are actually matchmaking services out there that offer services to connect you with partners and co-founders for your business. CoFoundersLab is just one example where you can peruse the profiles to find a business match that’s right for you.
There are also Meet Up groups or coworking situations that may also put you in the presence of like minded individuals that are looking for the same. If you find someone you believe to be congruent with your values and work ethic, then agree to give it a try before settling down.
Whether “dating” in this business relationship, or putting down some roots, you need to flesh out the actual roles and responsibilities of each partner in an actual agreement. Depending on the type of business you organize, you’ll likely find yourself having to pursue this sooner rather than later.
There are some great resources out there like LegalZoom that can assist you with drafting the terms agreed upon. Items that you’ll need to consider are compensation and percentage of equity in the business, official titles, and who makes specific decisions for the business.
Some of the items that are dependent on compensation and decision making authority would include initial startup investment of time and money. This could also involve the time investment of each partner. Do you work full-time in the business and your partner’s time investment is part-time?
This may be even more of a conversation with multiple partners if you are bringing more assets to the business in the way of industry knowledge, business expertise, and skills. In this situation for example having multiple partners, you may find that those partners with the stronger asset portfolio would in turn receive a higher equity stake. Or, some partners just split everything evenly, but these are all decisions that need to occur and be in writing.
Did you co-found your business with a partner, or are you in the market to find your “significant other” in your business? What have you learned from your own business endeavor?
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