Entrepreneurs who have built successful companies learn to value and leverage key relationships over time. They come to rely on the support of a broad range of partners -- law firms, accountants, recruiters, and realtors as well as customers and suppliers. They place particular importance on longtime links to their investors -- partners whose overall value transcends that of the capital they provide. In this four-part series, a veteran private equity investor examines the life cycle of the relationship from the first time the business owner needs growth capital to the demanding days long after the thrill of the IPO is over.

Part 1: More to It than Money
Today, with banks imposing tight lending standards and the IPO market on hold, many company founders are assessing private equity as a primary source of capital. But if they're not actively looking for the partnership characteristics that aren't seen on a spreadsheet, they're effectively applying the brakes to future growth.

Part 2: Advice on Acquisition Advisors
When a business gets to the point where strong growth depends on buying other businesses, the owners have just entered complex company-building territory. That's when the right kind of strategic guidance is as valuable as the acquisition funding itself.

Part 3: Untying Tied-up Assets
If you think the only way to get equity from your business is to sell the whole show, you'll be pleased to know there's an alternative. Selling a stake to the right partner can leave you firmly in charge -- and position you for a "second bite at the apple" later on.

Part 4: The Allure of Going Public
Even now, public markets hold a powerful appeal for entrepreneurs. But as the CEO of any public company will tell you, the IPO is no cakewalk. In fact, it's just the start of the next phase. The question of who's on your team matters more than ever.