7 Keys to Picking the Perfect Partner
from Entrepreneur.com 12 June 15 enhanced by Peter/CXO Wiz4biz
The Value of Partnering. Over the course of my career, I have forged several successful partnerships. As usual, the most successful partnership of all time is with our most significant other. But the truth is that while I love and embrace the independence and freedom that being an entrepreneur brings, I have always relied on partners to take my game to the next level.
Decisions? Decisions? Do I enjoy running decisions by my partner? No, not particularly. But I know that when two or more parties bring different – yet equally valuable skills to the table – amazing things happen.
Common Goals. When I first struck out on my own, I teamed up with a partner, who was an incredibly talented illustrator. I would come up with ideas and he would bring them to life visually. We had common goals and were equal partners. All of my partnerships have been like that, actually. I founded a another company with my boyhood friend, because he had experience in the industry and my strengths were design & marketing. I’m proud to say that my current partnership at InventRight (which helps Inventors bring their product to market) has endured for nearly 14 years now. Like any other relationship, we have our ups & downs, but at the end of the day, we trust each other.
Partnering with the right Co-Founder to work with, can be a challenge. What are you really getting yourself into? How can you be sure? It’s all a bit nerve-wracking. Avoid making a commitment to the wrong person using these seven (7) strategies.
1. Do the Research. Google the person you’re thinking about working with as well as their associates. I know people who won’t go to a restaurant before consulting Yelp these days. So dig for dirt. Does anything you uncover give you a bud gut feeling? When you do your research, remember to focus on the big picture. No one is perfect. If you have a presence on the Internet, someone probably has said something nasty about you at one point or another. It’s more about the context of the claim. Are there specifics?
2. Set Ground Rules up front. Who is responsible for what? You need to spell out your responsibilities clearly — and frankly, it’s best if your talents do not overlap. If reaching an agreement is difficult early on, you might as well run for the hills now. Working together is not going to get any easier. In fact, I can almost guarantee that it will only get more difficult as time goes on. In that way, your professional relationships are like any other. How are you supposed to genuinely commit to someone when your very foundation is rocky? Your desire to make it work doesn’t have that much bearing. Walking away from an opportunity you’re excited about can be difficult. But it’s easier to do sooner than later.
3. Do you have the same Core Values? Plan your Major Goals together, but your partner doesn’t have to share all your long-term goals. You can be in it for different reasons. What I believe is much more important is, having the same philosophy towards business and even more so, life. How are you going to run your company? How are you going to treat your customers & employees? What principles do you abide by? These aren’t really questions you can put to someone point blank, although doing so isn’t a bad idea. I prefer to observe how the person treats other people. Does he or she have long-term relationships with other people? What about communities & organizations? If so, that’s a good sign. If your potential partner has a tendency to burn bridges, that does not bode well for your future together. Having a difference of opinion is one thing, fearing that you might be betrayed is another. So become a student of their history. Talk to his or her former colleagues.
4. Test your Partner. Assign your future partner a simple task early on. How did they handle the responsibility? Did the do adequate planning. Does he or she complete it in a timely manner? Was their performance up to your expectations? Are you pleased with the result? Does he or she make excuses? Use this opportunity to determine whether your temperaments match up.
5. Give it some Time. Understand that good partnerships develop over time. Be wary of anyone who tries to rush your decision-making process. In my experience, it’s always best to discuss things, and come to an agreement, before putting anything into writing. In fact, you may need to have several conversations to reach a mutual understanding. If it’s a significant decision, have them review the draft of the decision to make sure it’s clear & concise. Then they should appreciate your efforts to keep things impartial.
6. Draw up a Partnering Agreement.
What are your obligations to one another? What are your mutual expectations? Here are some of the subjects to consider in the Agreement? 1) $$ Contributions to the Partnership, 2) Equity Share (allocation of Profits & Losses), 3) each partner’s Authority / Responsibility, 4) Decision-Making, 5) resolving Disputes, 6) admitting New Partners, 7) Departure or Death of a Partner. Get everything in writing. No one likes to think about what will happen if things go sour, but you need to know.
7. An amicable Parting. You want to keep the door open for future business opportunities, don’t you? In reality, you may be hurt, annoyed or frustrated – and that’s OK. Those feelings will pass. In time you will be grateful you dodged a bullet. Needlessly burning a bridge is always unwise. Our industries are smaller than we think! Tell them how you appreciate their contribution and that you are dis-appointed that it didn’t work out.
Conclusion: Each of my Partnering has taught me something about myself. They’ve helped me get clearer about my strengths & weaknesses and what I’m looking for. Communicate how you appreciate the contributions that your Partner is making. Have a little “social” – to get closer. Take them to Lunch or go out as Couples with your spouse. The more you get to know them & their life, the more you’ll connect.
Comments: Is there anything you can add to picking & developing your Leaders?