Success has always been more attainable starting out with a partner or small team rather than on your lonesome. After 7 years and developing 3 companies, the most difficult decision I’ve faced is selecting the all-star team that’s going to win. Here are 5 steps to take when deciding on a business partner:
1. Find Missing Parts
You probably know the skills at which you excel and, if you are honest with yourself, you probably have a list of areas in which you stink. The overwhelming majority of successful entrepreneurs are good at identifying weaknesses and finding people that fill in these gaps. Be careful not to partner with your own reflection. Selecting partners with virtually identical backgrounds can result in narrow focus, slow growth, and numerous clashes over potentially insignificant topics.
2. Agree on Destination
You may both agree on creating the next big dating site but if your business partner is envisioning the company as the next “Christian Mingle” while you are busy picturing the next “Bang with friends” you’ve got a serious misalignment in ambitions. Take the time to discuss details your ultimate vision. A day of planning can save you weeks, if not months, of aimless toil.
3. Divide + Conquer
There are hundreds of things to be done and only two of you. Make sure you aren’t both focusing on the same areas. It can be extremely tempting to work on the same topic with your partner but this method of working is quicksand for a small team. Decide on your respective territories and give each other some space. Healthy space in responsibilities cultivates productivity, dependability, and most importantly, trust.
4. Date Before You Marry
Rent before you buy, walk before you run and all the other cautionary idioms we’ve heard since adolescence hold weight. For first time entrepreneurs, a marriage might seem like an extreme analogy but any business partner relationship you are considering needs to be thought through cautiously. Try committing to a week long trial period and evaluate the experience at the conclusion. If the partnership seems too tough to bear for a week, you will be able to part ways with minimal damage to either party. When evaluating this trial period, it’s imperative you receive absolute transparency from each other on potential areas of concern at the conclusion. Seemingly small issues can easily evolve into serious dilemmas.
5. Establish Expectations
Are you ready to quit your job? Is your partner ready? If not now, when? Establish expectations as early as possible. It’s extremely unwise and unfair to assume that because you’re willing to bet the farm, your partner should be as well. If your personal level of commitment isn’t identical with your partners, don’t panic. It’s not uncommon to see partnerships in which one person agrees to keep their day job to keep the company running lean, while the other commits to the business full-time in order to grow the business. The important aspect of this exercise is to be clear on each other’s needs and level of commitment.