As any small business founder knows, the journey to launching a company is a rollercoaster, to say the least. Thankfully, there are so many resources (and funding opportunities) available to entrepreneurs. There's never been a better time to bring your business idea to life--particularly if you have the right partner to help you do it.
While we didn't set out to create a business together, we both had strong--and similar-- ideas about how the publishing industry was changing. After talking outside of the office, we realized we both wanted to create a company that connected top-tier journalists with brands to create powerful high-quality content.
We launched our company Masthead Media in 2012, and as the years progressed, we learned how to leverage each other's strengths to turn our idea into a growing, thriving agency.
It's been said that it's harder to choose a business partner than a spouse--and based on personal experience, it can feel like an even bigger commitment! As you consider pairing up with a friend, colleague, family member, or a new networking buddy to launch your own new venture, ask yourself these four critical questions.
Will this person complement my skill set?
The greatest advantage of having a partner is working with someone whose strengths are so different from your own. No one person can be passionate about every aspect of the business, and so it's critical to align with someone who is driven by (and is good at!) completely different aspects of the work.
I've always loved the thrill of the pitch, storytelling, and marketing, while Julie is probably the most organized and process-oriented person that I've ever met. She's also a highly skilled manager of people and is able to bring out the best in our team members.
But at the end of the day, we both feel strongly about investing in and fostering great talent, and we have the same overarching vision for our company. This is so crucial: Bringing a partnership back to a shared set of goals for the business.
Do they share my values?
Julie and I were on the same team prior to launching our company. It was clear that we clicked, particularly from a business perspective. I loved that she seemed as driven and entrepreneurial as me, and was also decisive about taking action.
Work ethic is something that can make or break a company: I wanted to work with someone who'd stay committed to what we were building, but also valued work-life balance. Julie and I work hard, but we definitely believe in unplugging each night and focusing on our families.
It can be hard to find a business partner whose values line up exactly with yours, but a great starting point is identifying the people in your network whose work you respect, or who have been outstanding teammates in the past.
Will they be a partner in problem-solving?
And as with any working relationship, it's important to find a partner who can effectively manage through any kind of conflict or disagreement. Julie and I know that we should always address any major issue in person, without putting it off.
We trust each other enough to have really productive face-to-face conversations. Early on, I worried about tough talks (what if they meant the end of our partnership?) but now I know the communication will make things better, not worse.
We also create space to have deeper conversations, even when there isn't a specific issue. Each quarter, Julie and I meet for a full day at the office on our own (no employees) to discuss what's happening with the company.
Additionally, each year, we do a two-day company retreat with the rest of the team. Those are also great times to discuss bigger things, like company policies we'd like to put into place, or major life events on the horizon that could affect the business.
Can we get the job done--together?
Back when Masthead was founded, Julie and I did a little bit (well, a lot!) of everything. As any founder knows, there are never enough hours in the day to keep up with the nonstop process of launching a company.
But doing a little of everything is not necessarily the most efficient way to get things done, or to learn. Within a year, it became clearer where our interests and strengths were, and while we oversee different areas of the business now, we also both have a hand in company operations.
As we grew, we were able to hire for some areas of work that it didn't make sense for either of us to become experts in, like bookkeeping. Delegating this type of work helped to make us more effective leaders, and when our team has clear ownership over their tasks, we all get more done.
While every business partnership is different, I'm proud of the one that Julie and I have cultivated, and the lessons we've learned as our company has grown.
If you have a specific question about a current or potential partnership, DM me on Twitter @mastheadmedia and I'll try to answer via social or a future column.