Entrepreneurs know the value of having the right business partner. Those who’ve developed an idea into a business understand that no person can do it all alone. It’s necessary to have good, smart, and talented people in your corner who can help you see the angles and make the difficult decisions. Many businesses have failed because the entrepreneur either didn’t have a trusted partner or chose that partner poorly. What does a bad business partner look like? It’s not necessarily what you think. A bad business partner doesn’t have to be a person who is intentionally destructive or even negligent. In some cases, the worst business partner is the person who thinks just like you.
While it may be comforting to work alongside a clone, it’s not conducive to personal or business growth. The best partners are people who challenge you to be better and think about your company in different ways. Here are some tips on finding business partners that complement you.
A Two-Way Trust Relationship
Trust is critical in any relationship between business partners, and it may be even more important if you’re going to work with someone who isn’t a clone. You don’t need as much trust if you’re always going to agree on the dynamics of your business. It’s when one of you decides to break with the norm that you’ll need that trust. Sufficient trust between partners will allow you to be honest with one another. Your partner can give you the truth about a potentially wrong decision. If you know you’re both in it for the good of the company, then it’s much easier to have productive conflict.
Avoid Friends in Most Cases
Friendships complicate business relationships. Most people choose to befriend those who are easy to work with. They want to minimize stress and conflict, so they prefer individuals who have similar ideas, personalities, and mindsets. Quality leadership is about finding people who may bring a different perspective than you do. While they might not always make the best friends, you couldn’t ask for better business partners. Aside from that, it will be easier to engage in productive conflict if your business partner doesn’t have to worry about muddying up your friendship. Any experienced venture capitalist will tell you that only in rare cases can good friends be great business partners.
Familiarity is Key
One of the challenges with finding a business partner who will truly challenge and complement you is familiarity. How can you know how they will respond unless you have worked closely with them? One way to handle this is to work with someone you have experience within a non-business setting. By the time you set sail with your business, you should have been developing ties and connections in the community. Perhaps you’ve served on the board of a non-profit with a person or headed up a community endeavor with them. Try to work only with those people you’re familiar with, so you can anticipate how their style and thinking will complement your own to benefit the business.
A Partner with a Different Background Than Yours
People develop their mindsets and ideas at various stages of life. However, you can expect that a person who has a similar background as you will approach problems in business in a similar way. Part of successful thought leadership is being willing to work with a person who has learned business and life lessons in some way that’s different from yours. For instance, if you’re a software engineer trained at MIT, you might want a person with a sales background, trained at a good state school. If your business is going to be successful, you’ll need to appeal to consumers, employees, and stakeholders of varying backgrounds. Finding a business partner who has come up differently may be the best approach to creating a winning business vision.
Consider the Effect of Pacing
Some people make quick, decisive decisions in business. Other people are more deliberate and methodical. Both of these approaches have some value. If you’re the sort of person who is capable of pulling the trigger in a hurry, then perhaps you need a person who can slow down your pace and convince you to consider many angles. If you have trouble settling on a decision, then working with someone who can convince you to move on a plan can be a significant benefit. While it may be comforting to have someone in your ear who confirms your approach, you’ll lose out on a valuable benefit. Having that complementary piece in your leadership team can make a positive difference.
Finding the right business partner can be a make or break moment for many. It’s always best to pursue a partner who complements you. Having a clone will give you little leeway on decisions and provide no long-term value. Challenge yourself with a thinker who can broaden your perspective on your products, processes, and market strategy.
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