In business, the right partner is as important as the right partner in your personal life. When starting a business, you have to spend hours and hours over several weeks researching an idea, analysing the market , writing a business plan, and raising finance. Those first few exciting months will take you through the emotions of excitement, fear, doubt, and especially after late night’s disagreement, anger. As with a personal relationship, in the business you will be investing time, money and emotions. In some cases, you may spend more time working in and on your business then you do at home with your family.
Choosing the right partner to travel this journey is critical.
So, how exactly do you find the right partner? It is easier said than done. Let’s say you have a friend, a very good friend. You may enjoy talking to that friend, going out to parties with that friend or even going away on holiday with that friend.
But, this is fun stuff. Business, no matter how enjoyable, is serious difficult stuff. Questions you may want to ask yourself include: Is this person reliable? Are they responsible with money? How do they deal with people in general and crucially, how do they relate to those they manage, if they’re in a supervisory or leadership role in their current job? Another consideration is how do they deal with problems? Do they face up to their responsibilities or run away? Do they blame someone else rather than focus on dealing with the situation and reviewing ‘who did what’ later? Are they capable of coming up with creative solutions to problems and executing them to conclusion?
Perhaps the most crucial question is – given the fact that 80% of businesses are likely to fail within the first few years – is how do they deal with adversity? Another consideration is dealing with success. In the first stages of a typical business, there is generally little or no money. It’s almost like being a student at university. You make to do with very little, you innovate, and you beg, steal or borrow while you grow the business.
What I’ve seen and experienced is that success brings its own headaches. When the money starts coming in, it could bring in pressure to expand, to buy new equipment, to pay bigger salaries or dividends and can lead to tension between founding partners. The person previously content to own 10% of the business suddenly believes their contribution is worth a lot more. Or that they could run the business better on their own. As with a romantic relationship, a separation can be drawn out, painful and very expensive.
There’s no exact science for choosing the right business partner – after all, people change – but there are warning signs to look out for. These include:
- Is the potential partner a ‘dreamer’ or a ‘doer’? Dreamers tend to talk a lot about success and money before they’ve even done a scrap of
- Does the partner have skills that you could not do without in the business? For example, are they particularly knowledgeable about a specific industry that will give the business an edge?
- Does the potential partner have a track record in business? Even if the business has failed, they would have gone through the process and will bring essential knowledge of how not to do things.
- Is the potential business partner emotionally stable? Someone who flies into a rage at the slightest provocation or is hypersensitive to perceived or actual rejections is useless in a growing business.
- How have they dealt with their personal finances, whether they are skilled negotiators, and their risk profile.
- Could leave the partner in-charge for extended periods if you were ill, are they a safe pair of hands.
Having experienced good and bad partnerships in business, connecting the right people together has become one of my pet projects as a problem solver. Maybe I should start a Business Partner Dating service?
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Janice B Gordon: The Problem Solver Business Growth Consultant, Mentor, Speaker and Author. Business Evolution – Creating Growth in a Rapidly Changing World will give you the guidance you need to evolve you and your business and exceed your customers wants and needs.