On Valentine’s Day this month, couples all over the country celebrated their romantic partnerships with flowers, hearts and candy. And there’s no denying the central role that a spouse or significant other can play in our lives.
But for entrepreneurs, there’s another “special someone” that comes in a close second.
You guessed it, your business partner. Maybe you’re already paired up or maybe you’re out there looking. For those who are seeking, there are events such as Startup Weekend and websites such as FounderDating.com, the equivalent of Match.com for the entrepreneurial set. Either way, consider these attributes to find a great business partnership or improve a partnership you have.
You share a common goal: Before starting (or continuing) a business partnership, make sure you both want the same thing. According to authors Rodd Wagner and Gale Muller in their book “The Power of 2: How to Make the Most of Your Partnerships at Work and in Life,” the Gallup organization’s research reveals that when “a partnership fails, the root cause is often that the two people were pursuing separate agendas.
Conversely, when partners want the same thing badly enough, they will make the personal sacrifices necessary to see it through.”
To assess your fit in this area, you may need to dig deep and go beyond the mere appearance of agreement. Yes, you both want to build a great marketing agency, but does that mean you’ll be known for blue-chip clients or edgy new campaigns? You both want to own a gastropub, but is that because you want a nice lifestyle business where you can hang out with your friends or is the pub simply the first location of a future empire of franchises?
Your strengths complement each other: This idea of complementary skill sets is perhaps most strongly emphasized in Silicon Valley, where investors believe the next big thing is going to come from a team composed of a “Hacker” and a “Hustler.”
Serial entrepreneur and startup expert Jack Porter writes in his High Tech Exec blog, “The Hustler is the passionate business person that loves to go out and tell the story. The Hacker is the guy who spends 18 hours a day building the product. Many Angels are now considering this mandatory.”
In other words, no matter how wonderful your strengths are, don’t go out and get a carbon copy of yourself. Think about all the essential tasks required for creating the business of your dreams, identify the ones you dread or can’t do, then consider that your shopping list as you go searching for a Procter to your Gamble.
There may be certain things you’d both rather outsource, but at a minimum, find someone who likes to sell the vision if you don’t, or someone who is good with the details if you aren’t.
You like and trust each other: Especially in the early days of a business partnership, when you’re both consumed with making something from nothing, there can be some awfully long hours involved. Starting a business is hard enough; don’t make it any harder by picking a partner whose company you don’t enjoy.
If you already have a business partner, you can improve the relationship simply by making an effort to express your appreciation for the other person.
Build trust in existing relationships by keeping your partner’s interests at heart. Make sure to discuss any conflicts of interest openly and communicate about any perceived breaches of trust. Avoid putting your livelihood in the hands of anyone you can’t count on to keep promises and match their actions to their words.
In the end, all partnerships entail risk, but as the saying goes, “If you want to go far, go together.”