Q&A Friday: How Do I Find A Business Partner / Soul Mate?


lorna li qa fridayGreen Marketing TV reader Andreas asked, “I’m looking for partners. How can I find partners from Europe?”

To me, this question is very much like, “How do I find a husband / wife?”

Being a solopreneur is tough – too much work, not enough time. Somewhere out there, you know there is someone with complementary skills who could be your perfect match – kind of like a soul mate – someone to help grow the company and share the work.

But how do you find this person? More importantly, how do you find someone you can trust, especially with money.

Well, finding a business partner is a lot like dating. You never know where / when you might run into your “soul mate.” Finding “the One” could be totally random, like an unexpected encounter at the supermarket or at the gym. Maybe you are already connected on Facebook. Maybe you meet through friends. Or you may have to go on an online dating odyssey and play the numbers game.

And let’s say you meet someone or several compelling candidates. Then, there is the process of getting to know each other. Do you have similar goals? Similar values? Do you have complimentary personalities and can you work together? Is the timing right for both of you to get hitched? Most importantly, can you trust each other?

It’s extremely important to evaluate the reputation of your potential partner, no matter how talented or motivated they might be. If you are going to get hitched, you want to be damn well sure your partner isn’t crazy. This advice from Tristan Kromer, of GrasshopperHerder.com is golden:

Does his/her spouse support the project? Are they friends with their ex-coworkers and ex-wives? You’re going to go through some hard times and spend more time with your co-founder than a married couple and emotional stability is very important.

A business partnership is a lot like marriage – you will be spending a lot of time with your partner and making critical decisions together. You want to be sure this person has your back and isn’t going to turn around and betray you, rob you, or kill you.

One of the biggest mistakes I made was taking on a business partner who had no friends. Sure he had Facebook friends and random social engagements. But I noticed, over time, that no one really called him and he didn’t have any true, longstanding friendships. He had experience, motivation, and dedication to hard work. I had worked with him on another project before and based on this experience, thought the partnership had potential. A year and a half later when the business wasn’t doing so well, he turned around and ripped me off.

Never underestimate the amount of time it takes to truly know somebody.

That being said, finding a business partner, like finding a mate, has its challenges, but it certainly isn’t impossible. Here are some tips to finding the right business partner.

Questions to Ask Yourself on Finding a Business Partner

  • Why do you need a partner? Is it to share the work load? Is it because you can’t afford to hire someone to fill a key role in your organization? Does VC funding depend on you identifying a Co-Founder? Is your business growing so quickly that you simply can’t handle it alone?
  • What are the characteristics of your ideal business partner? Take the time to sit down and visualize this person. How many years of experience does he/ she have? What skills and expertise does he / she possess? Which industry influencers does he / she know? What is his / her personality like? What values does this person possess? What does this person like to do in their spare time? Really get specific about it and write it down.

Take the time to really get clear on your reasons for seeking a partner and what the ideal partner will look like. Once you have a clear idea, I recommend spending a few minutes each day visualizing working this person, imagining that the person already exists, that you are right now, in this moment, working with your partner, and the two of you are kicking ass and taking names. Allow yourself to tap into the Law of Attraction so that this person shows up in your life.

how to find the perfect business partnerWhere to Find a Business Partner for Your Social Venture

Just as with dating, it’s going to be hard to find a partner if you are home all day and night, staring at your computer screen. You know what it is to be a business, time starved entrepreneur, but you are not going to attract a great business partner, if you give off the vibe that you are busy and unavailable. This is just not sexy – you need to shift your mindset to be “Open & Available” immediately.

There are many places where you can meet a potential partner. At the same time you need to be realistic. If you live in a big city, your options are greater. If you don’t, you may have to consider relocating to a big city near you. In some cases, it may be strategic to relocate to another country – it will all depend on your industry and where the global hubs are.

Here are some places:

  • Local and national industry events. For social entrepreneurs, it could be a conference like SOCAP, the leading edge conference on social capital markets. For green entrepreneurs, it could be Opportunity Green, the leading green business conference. Local events like the TEDx series are also great places to meet fellow change makers.
  • Startup events. Startup events like Startup Weekend, Techcrunch Disrupt, and Startupfest are awesome places to meet bootstrapping startup entrepreneurs who are also keen to partner up. While these conferences may be tech oriented, you never know what tech startup is also serving your industry.
  • Local Meetups and networking events. There are Meetup groups all over the world on any topic. While the list is small and events can be spontaneous, it may be possible find Tweetups organized around specific interests in your locale, especially if you live in a big city. The young but growing Green Chamber of Commerce lists networking events, and the Hub, a global social enterprise co-working space is a venue for many social entrepreneurial happy hours, presentations, and fundraisers.
  • Unconferences and BarCamps. Unconferences are a space for peer to peer learning and arose as a user generated alternative to expensive industry conferences. Unconferences may be organized in conjunction with an official event, or as the peoples’ alternative at a nearby venue. If you are unable to afford a official conference pass to to an important industry event, consider organizing your own unconference in a nearby cafe, bar, or event space. Check out Unconference.net for resources on organizing your own unconference. BarCamp is an international network of user generated unconferences. The first BarCamps were tech oriented, but now, BarCamps have been organized around a wide variety of topics.
  • Entrepreneur co-working spaces. If you are a solopreneur, consider joining a co-working space. Not only will you meet other entrepreneurs, you can benefit from the ideas, energy, and creativity that permeate the space as well as the awesome networking opportunities. The Hub is my favorite, but there are many more out there.
  • Your personal and professional networks. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your personal and professional networks for referrals to amazing partner candidates. Be sure to tap into the power of LinkedIn. You will probably need to upgrade your account to be able to send InMail to contact prospective co-founders directly. You can also post an ad in the job boards that indicates you are seeking a co-founder. Depending on the financial constraints of your startup, this may end up costly and there is still no guarantee that this method will land you a qualified co-founder or partner.

how to find a startup partner

Business Partner Dating Sites

I am amazed at the number of online business dating sites that have sprung up to help entrepreneurs connect with each other. Here are a few:

  • Partnerup is a social network for small business. here you can connect with other entrepreneurs, find a SCORE mentor, find partners, ask a question, and promote your business.
  • Venturrocket is an entirely new way to quickly and easily find top talent or land your perfect job. There are no job posting fees and no “premium” resumes, and you only pay for results.
  • StartupAgents is an online matching service dedicated to helping high-tech startup companies worldwide find the talent they need to build next generation products and services. The service provides both companies and individuals the ability to create detailed profiles that allow for a faster more successful matchmaking process. They focus on software, hardware, life sciences and green technology.
  • Founder Dating is a US based offline networking organization that aims to bring together super talented entrepreneurs with different backgrounds and skill sets to start innovative new companies.
  • Techcofounder is is an online directory of passionate developers interested in launching a new startup. If you are looking for a CTO, look here.
  • Build It With Me is also another developer focused tool that connects design & development entrepreneurs. It exists to make creating apps easier by connecting like-minded designers & developers with the same goal: create cool & useful apps.

Much thanks to Tristan Kromer of Grasshopperherder.com, who posted awesome discussion threads on Quora on how to find good startup partners and how do you know if you’ve found the right co-founder .

Tips on Finding the Perfect Startup Business Partner

  • Make sure your partners skills and experience do not overlap your own. Otherwise you may find yourselves forever butting heads over the same issues, while crucial areas of your business are ignored. For small startup tech companies, an ideal partnership triumvirate often looks like: 1. Business Strategist 2. Developer 3. Designer
  • Avoid partnering with friends and family. Picking a partner outside of your immediate social and family circles is wise, because you put your personal relationship at risk if things don’t work out. Furthermore, it’s always healthy to avoid having family dramas seep into your business relationships. Or to have the drama factor forever taint your community long after your partnership is over.
  • Define your roles clearly and early in the relationship. And don’t make it vague like, I’m the CEO and you are the COO. Then who does the Marketing? Who handles IT issues? Michael Gerber, author of The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It, recommends sitting down and mapping out all the roles in your organization, with descriptions on what each role will be responsible for. If you are a 2 person business, you and your partner can divide up the roles between yourselves equally. That way there is no confusion as to who does what.
  • Don’t forget to do a background check on your business partner. And yes, since we are comparing biz partnerships with marriage, I would even go as far as recommending a background check on your soul mate as well.
    • Hire a lawyer. If you are in business, be professional and make sure you and your partner have a legally binding agreement. Martin Zwilling, CEO of Startup Professionals Inc. gives this advice:

 

Especially when dealing with co-founders that haven\’t worked together before, meet with a lawyer with all the partners present and tell him what type of company you are starting, who is contributing what, and other relevant information. Get it written down. Later will be too late.

The most important thing about finding a business partner for your startup is doing your due diligence. Because splitting up is painful. If you are lucky, you part amicably, and no one takes anything personally.

If you are not lucky, your business divorce could cost a lot of money, a lot of time, and stress. A failed business partnership could leave you broke, destroy your reputation and ruin your health. Some entrepreneurs I know even go as far as to say they will never take on a partner again, because it’s not worth the hassle. But if you do find the right fit, the benefits of having a trusted team player can be amazing.

  • Did I miss any tips on finding a great business partner for your startup?
  • Do you think its better to have a partner for your business or to go solo?
  • Do you have a partner nightmare you care to share?
  • Do you have an awesome love at first sight story about your awesome business partner?

Please share your thoughts below!

 

This post was written by:

Lorna Li

Lorna Li is a social media and green marketing expert. She enjoys helping green businesses and nonprofits with bootstrap marketing, as well as helping job seekers leverage social media for personal branding.


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Comments

  1. Jeff Dubin says:

    Extremely well written and helpful Lorna. Kudos to you!

  2. Lorna says:

    Thanks so much for your kind words!

  3. Each general partner has equal responsibility and authority to run the business. Each partner should be involved in day-to-day operations of the business, and should make management decisions. Any partner may represent the business without the knowledge of the other partners the actions of one partner can bind the entire partnership.

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