I’ve always been a strong advocate of having a business partner and I practice what I preach by having a great relationship with Mary who’s been my business partner for over 7 years and 2 companies. I recently wrote about meeting John Teeling and one of his mantras is that if you are an entrepreneur you are on your own.. I agree with a lot of what John says but we’re on different sides of this one.. .here’s why: My honest view is that if Learning Pool had been led by Mary or I, rather than Mary and I there would be no Learning Pool today. This is because:
1. When things were really hard (and they were) in the early days there were times when one of us wanted to give up, change direction in a random way, or run away! On those days having someone to be the voice of reason or supply a kick where it was required saved the business more than once;
2. We’re more ambitious. I think the temptation as a one man band would have been to accept a certain level of success and not rock the boat. being a double act means that you have more confidence to stretch and that can mean your business grows further, faster or better;
3. 2 heads are always better than one and this leads to better decision making, fewer mistakes (regrettably not few enough) and more balanced thinking. Often the exercise of simply verbalising a problem gets you closer to the answer but if you don’t have a peer to share with, who do you talk to?;
4. It’s more craic!… we’ve had hours of fun making our team guess which one was good cop and which was bad cop… and you can’t do that on your own!
In the end I think businesses today are just the same as businesses of 20 years ago in every respect except one. The pace of business today is incomparable – things change so quickly and its impossible to keep up and keep your eye on the things that matter if you are on your own. Maybe this is because of how we use technology and maybe its because most start-ups are in technology. Indeed, maybe it doesn’t matter but I think it is a fact!
So if this is so important how do you go about finding the business partner who can share the biggest risk of your life with? The cynic would say that in a partnership you get 100% of the bad stuff and 50% of the good so choosing the right business partner could be the biggest decision of all. Regrettably there’s no magic answer to this one, but I do think there are some general principles to stick to:
1. Find someone with complementary skills to you;
2. It needs to be a partnership so it must be equal;
3. Ask yourself whether you can disagree with this person and not have a massive and unhelpful row every 5 minutes;
4. Don’t compromise on commitment – if you aren’t both equally committed to the project it’ll fail and it’ll be messy so be honest about what you want, what you are prepared to commit and what you expect. If you don’t hear the same its not going to work;
5. Work out a system where communication is effective and you both stay on the same page. This is increasingly important when you get a team because if you and your partner are on different sides, the team will smell it and it’ll be bad;
6. You don’t have to live in your partner’s pocket but you do have to get on.. whatever happens next its going to be intense from time to time so find someone you wouldn’t mind being stuck in an airport for 36 hours with.
Now if only there was a place to go to find great business partners we’d all be grand!