As they say, there are a lot of fish in the sea. Finding the right fish or partner can appear to be simple. Two best friends get an idea, decide to create a business and build their business and grow wealthy beyond imagination. That’s how the story goes, right? Unfortunately, most partnerships end poorly. Hence, picking the right co-founder is a complicated decision and important decision that could determine the fate of your venture. To help simplify your decision process, here are seven tips for starting a successful business partnership.
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1) Yin & Yang. Don’t pick someone just like you.
The ideal business partner shares some similarities with you, but also has a completely different set of strengths, opinions and habits. You are going to spend a lot of time together, so having a balance in personalities and business strengths is crucial. Quick personality tests like Meyers Brigg, Strengthsfinder 2.0, or the DISC profile are simple ways to compare characteristics and most importantly, understand differences. There is no “perfect” combination revealed from these tests, but awareness of each other’s tendencies, strengths and personalities can be invaluable in fostering a successful working relationship.
2) Travel. Test your compatibility on the open road.
So, you think you have chosen the right partner? Great! Now, put the new relationship to a quick test before you commit. Travel together! The longer the trip, the more you will learn about your true compatibility. However, a quick weekend camping trip can be sufficiently revealing. Going on the road will unearth true characteristics and effectively test your ability to coexist, work together, compromise and have fun with each other. If you are actually committed to growing your startup, enjoy this vacation because it’s probably your last for awhile. If traveling reveals potential issues or signs of incompatibility, you may want to reconsider before continuing forward.
Despite going to high school together, I had spent a minimal amount of time with my partner, Jaspar Weir, before deciding to start a business with him. Fortunately, a six week backpacking trip throughout Europe helped me realize we make a great team.
3) Have a plan. Write it down.
Take a moment to make a plan, both personally and professionally. Consider some important dreams, wants and goals to share that forecast one, five and ten years from now. Both you and your partner should complete these separately and share results. Personally, I am in favor of the Prometheus method of planning.
Jaspar and I did this before starting TaskUs and our visions were quite different. We acknowledged the differences in vision and collaborated on a compromise, creating a shared vision from which we could create an actionable plan. To this day, we have a weekly meeting every Monday at 5pm to discuss and hold each other accountable for personal and professional goals.
4) Have a partnership agreement.
Creating an operating or partnership agreement is an expensive and arduous process, but it’s necessary. Partnerships, just like new businesses, have a diminished success rate. As strong as your relationship is now, outside circumstances can threaten and ultimately end partnerships. Avoid feelings of regret and stupidity in the future by proactively structuring an agreement that is fair and protects both parties. This process may also bring some important issues to surface. Dealing immediately with any disagreements will pay dividends in tougher times.
5) Divide and conquer!
Having a partner dilutes your equity, so make sure you increase your output! While we strive to maintain a workplace that fosters collaboration, we avoid redundancy by clearly defining our separate roles and responsibilities within the business. Hold your business partner accountable for goals within their respective department, but don’t get in the way. Two people equals double the output. Anything less is wasteful.
When Jaspar and I started TaskUs, we both wanted to be responsible for sales. However, I compromised and took ownership of operations. I was hesitant at first, but now I recognize this was the right decision for the growth and success of our business.
6) Communication is the key!
Communication is the key to any healthy relationship, business or otherwise. Partners should be able to speak honestly and openly about everything in the relationship, from a professional and personal perspective. When schedules become hectic, communication is the first casualty. Just like a marriage, a partnership needs to be worked on every day. Schedule a daily walk for 5 minutes outside of the office, a weekly breakfast or monthly hike. Consistency is key, and the result is singular vision and complete trust. Having a routine will allow you to express concerns and address differences before they become an issue.
Sending a google calendar invite to my partner that I see several hours every day seemed foolish at first, but several mistakes stemming from miscommunication quickly taught us the value of scheduling times to meet face-to-face.
7) Have fun!
Starting a company isn’t necessarily about a “big exit”, fame or millions of dollars. Most would argue differently, but building a business is about the entrepreneurial journey. Having a co-pilot along for the ride can be rewarding and ultimately keep you sane. Make sure that even difficult times are utilized as learning experiences. Celebrate your failures and enjoy every moment of the ride.