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10 Things I Want in a Business Partner

You don't have to agree on everything. If you do, you haven't found the right person.
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I own a $4 million Web design business… but I don’t know how to build a website. 

How did I do it? My business partner has a lot to do with it. 

Finding the right partner is one of the most important steps in building your business. It’s the first thing I do in every one of my companies. Even if I had all the skills necessary to run the business myself, I’d still find a partner. 

The right person must not only share your passion, but also compliment your weaknesses. 

Here’s what you must have in common: 

  1. Passion: You and your partner may not have equal levels of passion but they should be close. A great partner is a person you can call at 3 a.m. who will pick up the phone at that hour to listen to your idea with nearly the same amount of excitement.
  2. Goals: What’s the exit strategy? Does he want to sell at X dollars and you want to sell at Y? How will your business be structured? Do you envision a full staff, and he envisions just you and a couple people? What will be the range of your products and services? Does he want to be the jack-of-all-trades and you want to focus on just a couple things? Being in complete alignment with your goals at the start of your business is a make-or-break decision.
  3. Location: It’s very difficult to truly commit to a new business when your partner is not in the same location as you. Find a partner you can meet with in person.
  4. Commitment. If you don’t have a full-time job, but your partner does, this could be a sign of trouble. Having a partner who commits only a fraction of the time will quickly lead to arguments. If you do find a great partner who simply doesn’t have the same availability as you, be sure you clearly define your expectations, and know whether or not he can meet them. Level of commitment can also be set by equity.
  5. Motivation. Both partners need to have the ability to motivate each other. Ever have a gym buddy? If I call you to work out, and you don’t feel like it, trust me, I’ll make you want to go and you will go. The same goes the other way. It’s easy to be lazy. You MUST find a partner who can push you forward. And you MUST be that person as well. 

Here’s where you should differ:

Having different skillsets is extremely important. As long as you have the five things above in common, the rest of the qualifications should be complementary.

  1. Ideas vs. execution. If you’re the visionary or the idea guy, look for a partner who can execute your ideas. Two idea guys will get the business nowhere.
  2. Right brain vs. left. Are you a creative? Great! Find your analytical half. A successful business needs both sides of the brain covered.
  3. Sales vs. production. Can you sell ice to an Eskimo? Excellent. Now you need a partner who can make the ice. I’m a marketing guy. I don’t know how to build a website. But my partner, a Harvard computer science grad, does.
  4. Problems vs. solutions. Creating a process around various aspects of your business is very important. You may be great at seeing the problems, but your partner needs to be good at implementing the solutions.
  5. Gas vs. brakes. If you’ve got more ambition than your partner, that’s not a bad thing. It’s great to have a partnership where one of you is the gas and the other is the brakes. Having both put the pedal to the metal is asking for your business to crash. 
IMAGE: iStock
Last updated: Jan 19, 2012




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