Should You Start Your Business with a Partner?

Starting a business is no walk in the park. It requires an inordinate amount of patience and fortitude, not to mention time and money! Deciding to start up with a partner might seem like a great way to split your workload (and risk) in half, but think carefully before doing so. Partnerships aren’t for everyone.

A successful partnership is a delicate balance of the right personalities, skills and expectations for the business. Read on to figure out whether your business idea warrants a co-captain or not.

What a solid business partnership should look like

In an ideal world, you and your business partner would have defined roles and separate areas of the business to oversee. You would check in with one another for larger business decisions but, ultimately defer to one another for the areas you’re responsible for.

If you are friends or family, it’s best to keep business out of your personal life, and vice versa. Unfortunately, not every business partnership follows this ideal scenario.

Going into business with family or friends

If you’re considering someone you know and love as a business partner, tread carefully. If things go wrong, it could destroy your relationship. Of course, at the start, you can’t imagine that anything could go wrong, but know that it often does.

A Harvard Business School study found that tech startups run by friends were the least stable business partnerships, with a 30 percent founder turnover rate.

That’s not to say that you’re automatically doomed if you start a business with a friend or family member. However, realize that the stress that comes with business ownership, as well as two opinions about where to take the company, can put unforeseen strain on your personal relationship.

Where to find a partner

If partnering up a friend or family member doesn’t appeal to you, where can you find a business partner? Tap your startup community and contacts. If you’re a part of an industry networking group (and you should be!), consider if anyone there would be a good fit. Ask around. Tell people what you’re looking for and see if they have recommendations.

Then, interview potential partners just like you would a new hire. If you don’t know the person, you’ll want to spend plenty of time together before offering the partnership. Work with them, if possible, to see how they work and if that style meshes with your own work ethic. Take your time; this is a big decision and not one you should rush.

Choose someone whose strengths complement your own

It might be tempting to look for a partner who has similar skill sets, but that doesn’t do your company any good. Instead, look for someone who possesses strengths in areas where you are weak. If you’re an amazing graphic designer, look for a strong writer as partner of your new marketing company.

Think beyond specific work skills, as well. Are you a cautious planner? If so, you’d do best with a partner who is a little more of an adaptable risk-taker. Balance is key here.

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Get everything in writing

If you decide to move ahead with choosing a business partner, communication is key. Talk constantly about both of your visions for the company to ensure they align. Draft partnership agreements that outline each of your roles and responsibilities. Include a clause for what happens if one of you wants to exit the business, and what should happen if you hit any bumps in the road.

Do all of this before launching your business. It’s worth taking the extra time prior to starting the business to ensure that you and your partner are both covered no matter what happens moving forward.

Consider going it alone

Sometimes the idea of having a business partner is just a crutch. Perhaps you like the idea of having someone to bounce ideas off of and someone to share the risk with you. But consider: could you start this business on your own?

Starting and running a business solo means that you are 100 percent in charge of the decision-making. You never need to compromise or have your ideas set aside in favor of others. You don’t risk ruining any personal relationships. And, of course, you don’t have to share the profits with anyone!

Certainly, having a business partner can make running a startup easier in a lot of ways, but it’s not the only way to succeed as an entrepreneur. Carefully consider your personality and your leadership style to determine whether sharing the role of founder is the right fit for you or not.

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