You are enough.
This affirmation while true, does not hold a candle to the boundless positives of working with the right team- resources, efficiency, diversity of perspectives and a companion.
A great partnership with the ideal person can have an incredible impact on you and your business success. I should know. I’ve had the experience twice over!
In my early 20’s I started a design consultancy with my childhood friend. We were like two peas in a pod and every day of work was actually fun. Even though we were both designers, she was extremely savvy as a marketer while I was more comfortable behind the scenes.
Flash forward – motherhood, relocation and more than a decade later, I rediscovered the same compatibility with another dear friend. This time around though, we had complementary skill sets. While one came in with a strong marketing and finance background, the other had a creative history. What was common was a strong work ethic, the passion to learn and deliver and a visceral belief in our shared vision.
This brings me to one of my favorite math problems – if one person can do a certain job in ten minutes, and another can do the same job in fifteen minutes, how many minutes will they take to do the job together?
Yes, good partnerships yield exponential results over time.
Yet, an oft asked dilemma that baffles most entrepreneurs is how to find a business partner aligned with your vision who helps make the sum greater than the parts. Your Chip and Dale, the Yin to your business Yang, the Laurel to your Hardy!
What should you do when you’re looking for a business partner?
When your quest for a partner draws up a blank canvas, here are 14 ways to find a business partner followed by some handy best practices. Some of these or a combination might be just what works for you. Also feel free to grab our proprietary checklist for the perfect way to evaluate potential business partners or collaborators.
Don’t pick a friend just because you ‘get’ each other – look for someone where trust, compatibility and communication come built-in. If you have known each other long enough, you will have a sense of how they work in crisis situations or how they deal with others. Roommates, bff’s and then business partners, Lauren Hofer and Brittany Noetzel of design solutions company Fairswell believe that embracing the ups and downs of business, makes it so much easier with a good friend.
If you are in a challenging business setting, you might be able to turn to family. Loyalty, trust, constructive criticism and watching each others back comes naturally to most family members. There are numerous instance of when spouses step in to help out or parents seek partnerships with adult children. Sisters Christine and Caroline built a DIY flower arranging subscription kits business together by capitalizing on each others complementary skills.
Mompreneur Lindsay Satmary started 2 businesses with her husband and one with her mother-in-law. Growing businesses while also growing a family is hard work. Her village ( as she calls it) provided her the opportunity to do both at the same time!
Also read: How to enrich your career conversation with your spouse
Co-workers (Past & Present)
Sift through a list of your best work colleagues – past & present. When you have worked with someone, it’s relatively easy to assess their skills, experience, expertise and work ethic.
Cami Williams and Erika Seeley met at a corporate job 10 years ago and now co-own and operate VAology.
Given their combined backgrounds leading product and design for Gilt Groupe, Shan-Lyn Ma joined forces with her former colleague Ma Nobu Nakaguchi to build Zola, a new-age wedding registry company.
Co-working spaces like The Wing, Herahub, Bizbabez and Wework etc. help forge a certain kind of camaraderie and community, when you share an office space with like minded entrepreneurs. Another plus – there’s already a multitude of assorted talent under one roof, making it easy to find the relevant expertise that you might be seeking in a partner. With their ever increasing popularity, local co-working spaces are sprouting and it’s not uncommon to find one near you.
Yes, good competitors oftentimes make for the best partners simply because the customer base is the same and their drive that kept you on your feet was always visible.
Paula Brown Stafford and Lisa T. Grimes, fierce competitors for years in the pharmaceutical industry, together founded executive solutions company Habergeon and eventually co-authored Remember Who You Are.
Courses you do
Chances are that digital marketing course you signed up for has other mobilized individuals who share the same passion for learning but possess an altogether different skill-set. Look out for professional compatibility in the course forums and discussion boards and take the conversation offline from there. Don’t overlook the teachers or teaching assistants.
Your Academic Network
Your current classmates or the ones you meet at alumni events from school, college or university are a wonderful resource to identify shared interests or rekindle similar/parallel perspectives. Harvard Business School classmates Jennifer Fleiss from the finance world and Jennifer Hyman from sales and marketing—met casually for lunch every week to brainstorm entrepreneurial ventures and eventually co-founded Rent the Runway.
Professional or industry specific organizations
Every industry has its share of professional organizations, like the Asja for journalists and authors or AIGA for designers. Plus there is the local Chamber of Commerce, Small Business Development Corporation, SCORE etc. Reach out to them with specifics on the kind of partner you might be looking for or attend their events to connect in person.
Start-up events like Propelify, Hackathons, local events at stores, conferences and tradeshows, all are great venues for connecting with like minded people.
A lot of students will come armed with cutting edge skills especially in technology, so this is a great source to supplement your skill set. Universities today are hubs of entrepreneurship and young, ready-to-go talent, with students competing in startup competitions, new age solutions etc. Why not reach out to your local ones in the desired area of expertise and start a conversation?
Take your search digital.
Fortunately we don’t have to constrain our search to our close network of contacts or local geography. Easy online accessibility has enabled digital search.
Networking groups (Online or In-person)
Free online networking groups like Maroon Oak and Linkedin or in person ones like Meetup give you a terrific place to test the waters for potential business partners without spending a dime. In fact, there are even specific meetup events to match potential business partners. All it takes is a friendly hello and some initial virtual or in person coffee dates to assess the possibilities.
Read: 7 Networking Tips every Professional Needs
Groups on Social Media
Facebook and Linkedin groups are a treasure trove of collaboration since they have a lot of niche groups and conversation threads around super specific topics. Plus, you have the advantage of checking out their credentials and experience too. Whether you connect through an industry specific group or a general one, make sure to start small and spend time getting to know each other before making a commitment.
This can be a potential winner – founders actively seeking out partnerships! Whether its Co-founders Lab or Founder2be there are a lot of founder matching sites which allow you to vet potential partners online and even meet up in person at follow up on-ground networking events.
Put out the word. Be creative. Your website, on your social handles, your message groups, your email signature- they’re all fair game. Create a landing page to direct potential partners, add a survey if that helps.
Talk and share your ideas. Reach out to your network for recommendations. The networking never pauses. It’s just more strategic. You never know which mud sticks to the wall.
Some best practices
- Do a pre-assessment on compatibility by starting with a short-term project or collaboration.
- Define a partnership vision rather than just letting it evolve without any roadmap whatsoever.
- Relationships take time to mature, so give it time.
- Think of yourself as equals (titles don’t matter)
- Divide and conquer in a good way.
There’s always the divine possibility of organically meeting your partner at a Bunco night (as with Bridget and Jennifer of Shadow Marketing Group) or at a midwifery clinic (Maggie & Bronwyn of Balancing Birth Baby). But until that intervention, look everywhere, without leaving any stone unturned.
Are you in a partnership or ever been in one? How did you connect? What are your tips for identifying a great partner? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
You can’t use up creativity. The more you create, the more you have.
A Designer and Entrepreneur, Aditi graduated from a top design school and subsequently started her own design and merchandising business. Co-founder at Maroon Oak, she has over 17 years of business experience with Two Dotts, her design consulting company and an Etsy store which serves as an outlet for her gifts and patented product designs.
A mother to a teen and a tween, she enjoys running, dancing and raising her newest baby, a Bichon named Miltie.
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Thank you so much for sharing! I am in the process of bringing my husband on board with me and hopefully we will have the need for more people in the future!
This is so helpful! I just brought on a friend as a team member, and I’m really excited about how complementary we are!
Thanks for sharing this post! So helpful for partnership!
This is such a great post with amazing advice. It is so hard to find someone who you can trust and work well with when starting a business. I loved what you said about being partners with your competition! How interesting!!! I’m sure that is a great way to challenge your self and collaborate with the best of the best!
There are some really great ideas here to keep in mind when choosing a business partner. I have known friends who jumped into business together that didn’t work out so well, so it’s definitely an important decision to reflect on.
This list looks very complete and added a few I never thought of. I think the idea of starting with a short-term project is great to determine compatibility
What a great resource, thanks for sharing!
I am not in need of a business partner at the moment but this was such a great read and so well written. I thought these were all such great tips to help someone get started when choosing a partner
These are terrific tips. I’m a one-woman team but have had thoughts about bringing on another person for a variety of reasons. This list will be a great jumping off point for me. Thanks for sharing!