Entrepreneurship can be a lonely path, long hours, hard work and problems that people outside of your business just don’t understand. That is why many people look to find a partner to take the journey with, someone to share the experience and ride the ups and downs. I regularly get asked, what is the best way to find a business partner? How do I find the right business partner? Reflecting on my own experiences, I can give the following advice.
Getting the right business partner is incredibly important. It is not good enough to just jump into bed with the first techie or designer that comes along because you need their skills; it needs to be far deeper than that. A lot of people are set on the idea of having the ‘perfect’ business partnership, where all founders have complementary skills; a developer, designer and business development person. I say forget chasing skills, there is no point in settling for someone with the skills you need to get started in the short run if they can’t contribute to the business in the long run. A business partnership is like a marriage, you will spend more time in a week with your business partner than your spouse and the trust levels need to be just as high. You wouldn’t rush into a marriage, so why into a business partnership?
Where do I find a partner?
The ideal business partnership is likely to be with someone you know and trust already, somebody who you like and understand. Going by that logic, the best way to find a business partner is to surround yourself with people who share a similar passion for entrepreneurship. This not only has the benefit of making it more likely that you will know somebody in a position to partner up with, but the benefits of filling your circle of friends with clever and ambitious people is well documented.
To surround yourself with potential business partners is easy enough, however relationships take time to build of course. The best place to form these friendships is in a business or entrepreneurial community. Becoming part of a society or community filled with entrepreneurs you will be able to meet plenty of people that have similar ambitions to you. If you are at university, join the entrepreneur society, if you aren’t you can join the groups such as the local chamber of commerce or national organisations such as the Institute of Directors, there are even online communities.
The second way is to attend business events. Becoming a regular at local business events will soon reap you plenty of relationships with like-minded individuals who are interested in taking the route of entrepreneurship. Of course you will also learn a few things from attending these events, this and joining a business community is something I highly recommend even if you are not seeking a business partner.
There are cofounder websites that match entrepreneurs together, kind of like a dating site for founders. However, I am not a fan of this type of road to finding a cofounder, as I have already expressed I think a partnership needs to be something much deeper than skills on a sheet. On a similar tangent, start-up weekend events form teams around ideas, a great way to meet people looking to start a business and test their traits over an intense couple of days.
How do I know if they are the one?
What attributes should you be looking for in a business partnership?
- Shared vision: having a mutual understanding of where the business is going is vital to establish in the early days and will avoid conflict in the long run.
- Similar financial position: having different financial and career positions can cause aggravation if you both cannot contribute equally in terms of time and money.
- Similar goals and objectives: what do you both want out of life? Where do you see yourselves in 5, 10, even 20 years? Having similar ambitions is crucial in avoiding separation further down the line.
- Trust: this is very important, you are going to spend the foreseeable future with this person and if you cannot totally trust the other members of your ship then it is a recipe for disaster. This means there is no quick fix to finding your business partner; it takes time to build deep trust.
- Upfront and honest: for me this is key, I don’t want someone who will pussyfoot around an issue; I need my business partner to be direct and honest for the sake of the progress of the business.
Choosing a cofounder could be one of the most important decisions of your life therefore it is crucial not to rush into one. The parallels between forming business partnership and marriage are incredibly similar; both take time, trust and commitment. Just like dating, the way to get more dates is to meet more people so network more to expand your circle and become close to people with whom you feel comfortable to step into business with.