“You want a partner who is forward-thinking—not one who is just looking for a meal ticket, or otherwise not overly concerned with achieving greater success.”
Finding a good partner is one of the most propitious and profitable moves you can make for your business. Of the few basic types of people in the world, there are those who have the motivation, wherewithal, and even resources to help you get to where you are going. Others only excel at pointing you in the right direction by lending advice and insight, and the fact of it is that some will not even be able to wrap their heads around the idea behind your business venture. The road to bringing your vision into tangible reality is a complete mystery to this kind of person, which means that they cannot be an asset to your business. Your ability to discern who is who and to recognize where their motivations and skills lie proves to be all-important when searching for a potential partner.
The Wildly Interested Talkers
Let’s say you are attending a public exposition to see the latest innovations people are making in your industry. You make the rounds, shaking hands and introducing yourself, as you constantly get caught up in mini-dissertations from would-be professionals, wherein they tell you: “You have an interesting idea, and I can help you make it happen.” Though, in rare instances, you might actually make a fruitful and beneficial contact in this way, it is not typically the most suitable sort of venue to find a business partner.
Find Someone You Can Trust, and Choose Wisely
Think about what your screening process would look like if you were planning a hiking trip through rough wilderness (which your business venture will certainly feel like, at times). If you’re smart, you bring people along whom you know very well—people you can entrust with supplies, resources, and information. You want people who think on their feet, plan ahead, and keep their affairs in order. This is not unlike the mindset to have during your search for a partner. If you have a team, then you are only as good as your team because they will either push you forward or hold you back. If you have a business partner, then this person will either put power behind your efforts or cripple your progress.
What Does the Right Business Partner Look Like?
A good partner will likely be someone you have known for some time. You do well to avoid resorting to trolling the cesspool of sycophants who are only trying to ride the coattails of an entrepreneur who has a potentially lucrative idea. This is not to say that the individual you choose as a partner should be a close friend, but as this person will be an equal contributor to the decision-making process, a colleague whom you have done business with before is a far more desirable candidate than a stranger who only seems qualified on paper.
When you have already worked with someone for a good while, side by side, you know how they work and whether you can trust them to take on half the responsibility of your company’s growth. You have been in the fight together; you have together dealt with the trials that arise in a work relationship and have overcome those obstacles. You each have seen the strengths and limits of the other, and the boundaries of how far you can push each other.
Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield opened Ben & Jerry’s after taking the same course in ice-cream making. They became friends in high school. Evan Williams and Biz Stone, founders of Twitter, did not get along at first, but they developed a mutual respect while working together at Blogger, which was the foundation for the company they would later form. Bill Gates and Paul Allen? Childhood friends.
An Ideal Partner Looks Ahead
You want a partner who is forward-thinking—not one who is just looking for a meal ticket, or otherwise not overly concerned with achieving greater success. We all have friends and colleagues with different talents and dispositions. Some are talkers, some can take a formless company idea and turn it into a workable plan, and others can even discern the future of the industry and how to bring you there. The best kind of partner is the one who is perpetually looking for new ways to implement your business plan; they are always conscious of how to improve the action and presence of the company. Take your time when choosing a business partner. Many of the candidates you consider may appear to add value to your company, but careful consideration of whether it will actually work for the long haul will help you find your ideal partner.
Before entering into a partnership, check out this post about writing a good contract:
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1. “10 Super Successful Cofounders And Why Their Partnerships Worked,” Business Insider, http://www.businessinsider.com/10-super-successful-cofounders-and-why-their-partnerships-worked-2011-6#larry-page-and-sergey-brin-1.