Written by Clairine Runtung
Note: this is the 1st out of 3 series of articles under the theme “Business Idea Generation”
Finding the right partners to work with can be a daunting experience for anyone who wishes to build his/her business. Imagine a really large box. As a founder, your job is to move that box from where it is now to a designated spot 100 kilometer further. The box is very heavy because it contains hopes, goals, challenges, and concerns with regards to your business. Ultimately, you then consider getting help from a friend—someone who will voluntarily tie up another rope on to the box and pull it together with you towards the same goal. Along the way, however, your friend may in fact sit on the box on the 20th kilometer, or maybe even pull it to a complete opposite direction of what was agreed before. Worst, your friend might just leave you and the box altogether.
According to David Mellor, business mentor and author of “From Crew to Captain: A Privateer’s Tale”, choosing the wrong business partner(s) is one of the top 3 reasons why businesses fail. This leads to a question every soon-to-be entrepreneur should ask: How to find the right business partner?
Of course, no method for selecting the right business partners will ever be perfect, but one can always learn from others’ (read: seasoned entrepreneurs’) advice:
1. Define a role with complementary skillsets to what you already have
George Deeb, Forbes’ Growth Strategy, Execution & Financing Columnist, suggests founders to first and foremost scope the value-adding skillsets needed for the success of the business. Figure out a clear role of a co-founder and make sure it can be an effective blend of strengths and responsibilities.
A partner who offers value-adding skillsets for the business will be one of the keys to a successful start-up
2. Tap into your personal network
Once the role is identified, finding the right person is the next step. This is where personality, chemistry, shared vision as well as trust would play an important role, in addition to skillsets and past experiences. George Deeb advises to go through your list of personal network first, preferably names within the desired industry. Aside from digging through personal inbox, LinkedIn is a great tool to utilize as the next step.
3. Investigate their financial stability
R.J. Lewis, President and CEO of e-Healthcare Solutions, highlights that it is important to find out the risk-tolerance level of the potential partners. Are they financially ready to embark on the endeavor? How much capital can they commit to the venture? What is the point where they cannot go further (financially speaking) when things go south?
Understanding your potential business partner’s financial stability will enable you to manage each other’s expectations
4. Do a trial: work together first
Scott Wilson, a member of Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) in New York, as well as Co-Founder and CEO of Marathon Consulting, emphasizes that “testing the water” is a highly recommended stage before deciding who to partner with. In this case, it would be beneficial for you and your potential co-founder to have had a prior work experience together. This is something that cannot be judged just by examining someone’s resume. The prior work experience can give you and the prospective business partner a chance to get to know each other and learn each other’s style.
5. Make sure that your partner has a good reputation
Business ethics, moral values, credibility and positive image are metrics to be considered when ensuring a right partner to build a venture with. Martin Zwilling, Contributor of Entrepreneur Magazine, Angel Investor and Tech Professional, stresses that as a start-up, particularly a tech start-up, key team members’ image is a brand. It is then necessary to do a thorough (but polite) due diligence on a potential partner before dwelling deeper into a partnership commitment.
Run your start-up with the right partner!
In summary, as a founder you should do your homework on a potential business partner. It can be a time-consuming process, however, it is worth the work and energy. After all, the last thing you want when you should be busy building your start-up is a business partnership that ends in resentment and legal proceedings.