Few businesses are a solo act: behind every dynamic CEO in the spotlight, there’s almost always another cofounder working with them to build a vision into reality. Steve Jobs had Steve Wozniak; Bill Gates had Paul Allen; Dave Packard had Bill Hewlett, and so on.
Choosing the right business partner can make or break the success of a business, so it’s vital to choose the right one from the beginning. Here are a few principles and strategies you can use to find the right partner for your business or venture-to-be.
1. Do a Test Run
A simple and effective way to test your compatibility with a business partner is to do a trial run with them. You could volunteer together or work on a smaller project.
This lets you observe how they respond to challenges, how well (or poorly) they collaborate, and whether working together creates synergy or drains your energy.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to take things slowly and build up trust over time. Partnership is a lot like marriage. (In the early years, you may even spend more time with your business partner than your family!) It’s important to make sure you gel well, pull your weight equally, and can spend long periods of time working together.
2. Look for Complementary Skill Sets
You should look for a partner who brings skills to the business you lack. A partner may be better at sales while you excel at software development, or one partner may excel at operations while the other shines in design.
Whatever the case, your partner should have skills that make your team more well-rounded. Great minds don’t need to think alike; they just need to think together.
That brings us to our next principle:
3. Look for Shared Values
Although you want your partner to have different skillsets, it is vital for them to share your core values. Do you fundamentally believe employees will excel when empowered while your partner believes all employees are lazy?
Do you value environmental sustainability while they value profit over all else?
Do you value being kind to others while they value aggressive “alpha” approaches?
You have to share values in order to maintain a healthy partnership and ensure you’re both in agreement about which business strategies will or won’t align with your vision.
3. Agree on the Exit Strategy
It’s also important for a partner to be on the same page about your exit strategy. Do you plan to retire from the business and install another CEO? Is your ultimate goal to sell the business?
Your exit strategy will heavily influence your short- and long-term goals as well as performance goals, so it’s important to make sure your partner is onboard for the exit strategy you have in mind.
Don’t assume; ask.
4. Check for Financial Skills
Poor financial prowess can spell doom for a business. It is critical for a business partner to have strong financial skills. If they have an ocean of credit card debt, a gambling addiction, or a history of business failures, that can be a red flag.
If only one partner is good at managing money, this can lead to constant clashes (think: one partner spending too much on office furniture without understanding that it puts the business in the red) and overall poor use of your company’s resources.
Both partners should consent to a background check and credit check. It may feel invasive, but if they have nothing to hide, they should respect your request. At the end of the day, it is simply a part of your vetting process, not an accusation about their character.
The Bottom Line
Choosing a partner can be the single most important business decision your make during the life of your venture. A good partner will amplify your efforts and help accelerate your journey to success. But a bad partner can weaken the business, undermine your efforts, and ultimately cause failure.
But by using the principles above and trusting your instincts, you’ll be able to find the right match to take your business to new heights.
Want Help Finding the Right Partner?
As a part of our community, you can benefit from other entrepreneurs’ experiences to help you navigate challenges, learn best practices, avoid common pitfalls, and take advantage of opportunities you may have overlooked. This group of high-achieving business owners can help you identify red flags in potential partners early in the process and determine signs of a good match. Click here to join EnrichHER’s Founder LinkedIn Group today.
EnrichHER is a financial technology platform that matches revenue-generating companies led by women and founders of color to individual and institutional sources of funding. Since 2017, EnrichHER has deployed upwards of $4 million through its platform and matched business-owners to $13 million in working capital through its Accelerator. By providing capital, coaching, and connections, we are fueling the fastest-growing demographic of business owners. Our network has engaged with over 23,000 advocates through its digital community and in-person activations.