How To Find A Business Partner
Sometimes I wonder if I just haven’t found the right partner…
There are some entrepreneurs that succeed seemingly on their own. They work better without external input.
There was an interview a few months ago with singer/songwriter/guitarist John Mayer. I think it was on the Bobby Bones Podcast. Love that podcast by the way.
Anyway, Bobby asked John if he sought outside input on his music. John said that he did not and he gave a good reason. He basically said that he’s been doing his music for so long and he’s tried so many different things that he kind of knows how to get the best work from himself.
But that’s not obviously the case. I think about other musicians and how it’s such a struggle for some to go out on their own after they’ve been part of a successful duo or group. Sometimes you need that partner, even if you don’t necessarily like them, to bring out the best in you.
I also have a good friend whose dad has been in an industry for a long time. With his brothers. On his own. Working for other companies.
Eventually he got to a point where he was working on his own. A solid business. But then he was approached by another business in the same industry, but one that was doing something a little different. A different niche. They were looking to merge four businesses into one. Streamline the operations. Make the entire operation more appealing in the industry.
The company has grown to new heights. He doesn’t own 100% of a moderately successful business anymore, but he owns 25% of a very successful business. And he has more resources to lean on. He has other guys pushing him to do great things.
Business partners can be a great thing. If you’re looking for a business partner then here are a few ideas for finding one (or multiple).
Where To Look
This is more the case when you’re both working for a company. Maybe the company just doesn’t have enough room at the top for all of its great people. It’s just a situation that happens. Those that are overlooked want to spread their wings, but need to do something on their own or in a different setting to do that.
If you’re overlooked there might be someone else that feels the same way. And if you complement each other (more on this later) then it might be a great opportunity.
If you’re the owner of a business there might be an opportunity to partner with one of your employees. That might see a bit strange to some, but it’s worked a number of times in business.
One example is with David Geffen who actually did it multiple times.
Maybe not always directly employer/employee relationship, but he was great at partnerships.
His first business on his own was a partnership with a fellow employee. They started their own management company.
Then Geffen partnered with an artist. You could say that he managed the artist that he partnered with. He was her employee in a way.
Later, he and his management agency partner started a record company. That was sold to Warner Bros. Later Geffen started Geffen Records in a partnership with Warner Bros. They were his boss in a way at the time.
Geffen also started Asylum Records as a partnership not only with his agency partner, but with Ahmet Ertegun who was the head of Atlantic Records. Ahmet was one of Geffen’s mentors.
And you can flip that around. Ahmet went into business with his mentee. He saw the potential in David Geffen and knew that with his resources and David’s drive that odds were good they would both reach success. And they did.
5. Extended Network
By this I mean:
- Friends of friends
Sometimes a partnership can work well if you ask those you know a few questions, “Do you know anyone like this…”
What To Look For
1. Core Values
Let’s say you’ve found someone you think will be a good fit. It’s important to consider a few things with the first being core values.
You have to know what your core values are.
Maybe one is punctuality. You’ll want to find someone that shares the same core value. If not, you might make some money, but the entire time it might drive you crazy and cause you stress.
It can work, but in the big scheme of life it might not be worth it.
2. People > Ideas
Generally the best businesses do involve good ideas, but ideas are really a dime a dozen. It’s really about connecting and partnering with the right people. People that share a similar drive and passion. The same core values. That bring out the best in each other. That push each other.
Even David Geffen said that he chose the music industry because it was a big time growth industry at the time. He was more interested in movies, but the money was in music. He has said that today he would focus on software.
You can always find ideas, but it’s more difficult and important to find the right partner.
3. Everybody Wins
It’s been interesting in sports the last few years. Teams seem to be coming around to the idea that contracts need to benefit the team and the player. For a long time, especially in the NFL, some teams would pressure players to sign team-friendly deals. That would be good for the team for the first year or so but then the player would grow frustrated and it wouldn’t be pleasant for either party.
Find arrangements that don’t only benefit you, but everyone involved. You really need to practice empathy for a partnership to work well in the long run.
4. Complementing Skills
This gets back to that four-way business that I mentioned earlier. The person that sought everyone out had the great sense to find complementing niche businesses that would really be a powerhouse together.
They could share operating expenses, charge less than the competition and build a stronger brand.
If you sell shoes and you’re the expert in women’s shoes it might not make sense to partner with another women’s shoes expert. Look for a kids shoes expert.
5. Complementing Personalities
And finally you want to look for complementing personalities. Not someone that agrees with everything you say and do, but also not someone that disagrees with everything you say and do. It’s a balance. Someone that pushes you without driving you crazy.
A business partner could be what you need to take your business to the next level. It’s something I’ve been thinking about recently. These are some of the things I’ve observed others do and it’s usually been successful. Many successful entrepreneurs that we admire were actually in partnerships. There’s no reason you can’t follow the same path.