Partnering Your Way to Startup Success
Finding the right business partner is a topic entrepreneurs shouldn’t take lightly. Not only can a co-founder help take on the beast of launching a startup, but having more than one person running the show is often an attractive component for investors.
From a financial perspective, a reliable business partner can help you beat the entrepreneurial catch-22 -- that is, to make more money, you need more staff, but to hire more staff, you need more money. Splitting duties with a highly capable co-founder means you have someone who can divvy up tasks and is 100 percent committed to growing your business.
But finding the ideal partner -- one that has a different skillset but shares the same vision -- can be like searching for a needle in a haystack.
To make your hunt easier, here are some tips for where to snag your dream business partner and how to vet potential co-founders.
Seeking them out.
We’re all aware of how important it is to surround ourselves with successful people. In the world of entrepreneurship, this is easier said than done. If you’re in an entrepreneurial tech hub like New York, Silicon Valley or up-and-coming Austin, Texas, successful entrepreneurs (read: potential business partners) are a dime a dozen. But if you’re in Madison, Wis., the pickings are slimmer.
While local meet-ups can be a great starting point, often you will find others who are as lost as you. To find the big fish, you’ve got to shell out the dough. Attending expensive conferences will put you where the talent is at. Go high-end, but make sure you’re prepared to get your money’s worth, as you can’t afford to attend many plush events.
You’re likely to meet successful entrepreneurs, investors and mentors at these events. If someone’s willing to pay top-dollar to attend, he’s either supremely successful or so crazy about his dream he will do whatever it takes to achieve it.
To get the most out of top-rated business events, attend every possible activity. Make yourself stand out by asking questions and volunteering to come on stage. Your enthusiastic participation will catch people’s attention.
While some young entrepreneurs have the funds to go to these events, others may not. If you fall into the latter group, don't despair. Often these events are streamed live. Watch the videos. Pay attention to who is speaking and the advice they are providing. If you think they would be able to provide value to your partner hunt, reach out to them.
Related: 4 Tips to Avoid Co-Founder Conflict
Apart from events, join networking groups. From personal experience, I have seen a correlation between cost and quality of attendees -- the higher the cost, the higher the quality. Save money and jump in as soon as possible.
Find the right fit.
How do you know which top-notch person will make the best partner? First, give yourself options by interacting with as many people as possible. Some will eliminate themselves for you by being in a different market, not wanting a partner or having a clashing personality.
Once you have it narrowed down to a pool of potential candidates, use these questions as guidelines to determine whether someone will be a good match:
- Has he or she been successful in some area of life?You don’t want a daydreamer -- you want someone with enough discipline to bring dreams to fruition. If someone has achieved something significant, it’s a good sign he/she’s focused enough to go after business goals.
- Do you have similar levels of ambition?If you know that hard work is the only way to get good results but your potential partner believes in the four-hour work week, it will breed resentment somewhere down the line. You need to share the same vision, as well as the work ethic to reach it.
- Does the person complement your personality?The most effective partnerships are with people who aren’t exactly like you. Maybe you love to jump into new things, but once things get stable, you grow bored. This is where an ideal partner will pick up where you left off. Operationally focused people are often great matches for diehard entrepreneurs. If you need a little help figuring out personality traits, check out personality assessment test Kolbe A Index.
Whatever you do, steer clear of negativity and dishonesty. You need optimism and transparency to make your enterprise grow. Entrepreneurship requires seeing what others don’t. Spending a little extra money to find your kindred-business spirit will come back tenfold.
What advice would you add for young entrepreneurs looking for a business partner? Let us know in the comments below.