How to find a business partner for your startup
Updated 1st March 2019
Jobs and Wozniak. Page and Brin. Hewlett and Packard. The business world is full of dynamic duos who together were able to grow some of the world’s biggest and most successful businesses.
Having a business partner isn’t essential. There are plenty of successful brands with single founders at the helm – Jeff Bezos of the world-conquering Amazon is one prominent example.
But, given the choice, most entrepreneurs tend to prefer having a co-founder alongside them, for the complementary skills, moral support, diversity of ideas, and additional elbow grease they bring to a fledgeling enterprise.
And if you’re reading this article, chances are you’re sold on the idea of having a business partner, too.
But, how do you find one? Here are some tips that should help…
Before you start actively searching for a partner:
Establish what you’re looking for. Why do you need a business partner? How will they help the business? Are you looking for a specific skillset, or do you just want someone to share the workload with? The clearer you are about what you’re looking for and why, the easier it will be to find the right person. Think about which skills and traits will best complement your own. For example, if you’re great at design and admin but aren’t so good at networking, maybe you need an outgoing partner to be your ambassador. Or perhaps you’re an ideas person who could use a practical level-head to ground your creativity in reality.
Be sure about what you yourself can offer. Following on from the above, you need to be clear about what you yourself are bringing to the table. Seeking a business partner is a lot like dating – you’re looking for a mutual and complementary relationship, which means that any potential partner will be scoping you out just as much as vice versa. What are your skills, why will it benefit this person to come on board, and can you be sure that you’ll work well together?
Consider a mentor. In some cases, the services of a good mentor can be just as valuable as those of a business partner. If you’re capable of running the business solo, but feel you need someone to run ideas by and provide advice, a mentor could be the answer. Many investors offer an element of mentorship to startups, which is worth considering when considering funding. Alternatively, you could seek a mentor within your business, community or network.
While hunting for a business partner:
Scope out your friends and family. The advantage of partners drawn from your social and family circles is that you know you can get along with them. Hopefully, you are also reasonably aware of what they can offer your business. A word of caution, however: many of us are very different at work to the way we are when meeting socially. You need to rigorously check anyone against your job spec, no matter how long you’ve known them or how much you trust them. If you’re friends with any past colleagues, consider these people first, as you already know what it’s like to work with them.
Network hard. If nobody in your existing network springs to mind, find new people. That means networking. Attend networking events for startups and investors to see if anyone pops out of the woodwork. Remember, even if you don’t meet the ideal partner at one of these events, by expanding your network, you are increasing the likelihood that one of your new contacts can introduce you to the perfect person.
Check out co-founder websites. Not all networking has to happen offline. You can mix in some online networking as well. There are a growing number of sites designed to put entrepreneurs in touch with useful contacts and potential business partners. Check out sites like LinkedIn, Founders Nation, Co-Founders Lab, and Founder2be.
When you think you’ve found someone:
Make sure that you’re both on the same page. Nobody wants to sign up to something, only to be unpleasantly surprised when they turn up to work. If your new partnership is going to be a success, you both need to be on the same page when it comes to vision, goals, ambition, work/life balance and so on. If your work-styles, goals, and vision don’t align, you’re likely to face issues further down the road.
Have a trial period. The best way to establish whether or not a potential partner is a good fit is to have a trial period. This allows both of you to taste what working together will be like, without committing too hard to anything. There’s no better way to find out how well you work with someone than to do a trial project with them.
Agree in detail on your roles and responsibilities. It’s important to get this kind of nitty-gritty clarified as soon as possible, because it’s often petty niggles about roles and responsibilities which break a partnership. If you’ve hashed it all out and agree on everything before the get-go, there’s far less chance of misunderstandings and fallings out later. Plus, you’ll be a much more efficient team if you both know what you’re doing.
Business partnerships are among the most profitable relationships you can have (literally and metaphorically!). But it is important to find the right person. You’re going to be spending a lot of time with your business partner, and the future of your business will ultimately depend on them just as much as upon you. So it’s worth putting a lot of thought and effort into getting the right person. Hopefully, the above tips will help you out on your journey to find the perfect partner. Good luck!
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