Choose a business partner who complements your skill set.
As co-founder of three companies, many young entrepreneurs have asked me how I select the individuals I go into business with. The following criteria are common traits amongst my current business partners, and they form the foundational elements for what I look for in future partners.
A Positive Attitude
In life, there are always the type of people who leave you feeling enthused, motivated and/or just in a general good mood. They always seem to have positive experiences or some sort of good luck surrounding them.
Others can leave you feeling drained. They constantly appear to be encountering some type of problem, amazingly nearly daily. They relentlessly complain about feeling unenthused or lethargic.
It may seem like a no-brainer, but your partner should be the first type of person. Successful entrepreneurs universally exude positivity in their lives and want to surround themselves with like-minded people. You should do the same.
Financial Stability and/or “Sweat Equity”
Most people tend to be nicer in the beginning of any new relationship as they don’t want to rock the boat or seem difficult. However, you should clearly define partner roles and responsibilities from the start. Meet any disagreements head-on to decide whether you want to pursue the endeavor.
Partners bring different abilities to the table: some finance-focused people don’t want to assist with daily operations but are willing to fund the endeavor for a hopefully large return on their investment. Others do not invest monetary funds but rather “sweat equity” by agreeing to provide day-to-day management in exchange for a certain percentage of the company. My current partners and I utilize a combination of both.
The arrangement can be tweaked in whatever way works best for you, your partners and your line of business. However, there must be an understanding that each partner will contribute differently to the ultimate goal of creating a successful company.
A Solid Work Ethic
My current partners are what I call “hustlers.” They are witty, a little wily and can make magic happen when their backs are against the wall. I appreciate and emulate the ingenuity and tirelessness they bring to our respective businesses. Take note of a prospective partner’s accomplishments to date and also how they handle current situations. Helpful questions may include:
- How many endeavors has this person started and how many have been abandoned?
- How do they handle stress?
- Do you feel in your gut that this person has what it takes to put in the long, unreasonable hours that will be required to start your company and make it successful?
Candidly ask yourself these questions, discuss the results with mentors and listen to your intuition. Anyone can say they have a strong work ethic, but as the old adage states: actions speak louder than words.
Respect for You and for Themselves
Whether starting your venture with a best friend, a relative or a colleague, each of you must respect what the other can contribute to the company. This is especially important if you are working side-by-side with someone with whom you had an unequal relationship dynamic in the past (big brother/little sister, mother/daughter, father/son, etc.). You can’t let those dynamics trickle into the decision-making process of the business. “Little sister” has to be given as much of a voice as “big brother” if they are truly equal partners in a company.
I went into business with a best friend when we started Sin City Cupcakes. Some people considered this to be company suicide, but three and a half years later we still have a mutual respect for one another and share the same goal for our company as we did from day one: to grow, expand and have fun making money.
By listening to my mentors, believing my intuition and having a little good luck, I have been fortunate to work with knowledgeable and dependable business partners. Having another person join you on an entrepreneurial escapade makes the journey more fulfilling. It has given me the best type of support one could hope for — honest, real feedback from people I trust.
About the guest blogger: Lisa Song Sutton, J.D., is a real estate investor and serial entrepreneur, holding ownership interests in several companies in the real estate, retail and food & beverage sectors. Follow her on Twitter at @LisaSongSutton.