Partnering Up – Look before you leap!

Posted on September 22, 2011 by


When you are starting out you can often get swept up in all the excitement – there is so much to do, so little time and just yourself to achieve everything. You love you idea and want it to succeed -you are an entrepreneur in heat, with mountains to move.

Ah ha – You’ve got it! You need a partner – someone to share in your dream, vision and help with the workload.

Great idea in theory, but as any entrepreneur who has been involved in a business with partners will tell you, partnerships can be great but they also can be nightmares. Having survived a partnership that went bad and speaking to other entrepreneurs I have concluded the nightmare scenarios usually arise from insufficient thinking before partnering up and lack of upfront planning upon going into partnership.  Bad partnerships are also one of the top 10 reasons start ups fail – so beware!

So what should you do? You should spend sometime time thinking about it and honestly evaluate the situation, I have included some points you may want to consider:

  • Skills: Do they have complementary skills to yours? Are those skills essential to the success of the company?
  • Personality and Behaviors: Can you co-exist and be productive with them day in day out? Do they motivate you? Do they share the same work ethic as you? Do they want to be hands on? Are they confrontational?
  • Business Expecations: Do they share they same vision for the company as you? Do they share your same desired level of involvement?
  • Roles and Responsibilities: Are there clear boundaries? Are the tasks divided and understood fairly? Will you be able to respect those boundaries and their judgement call? Are they writen out and agreed upon?
  • Decision Making Structure: Do you have a decision making structure set up? This is usually better to set up before you get into business. This allows you to objectively decide who will have the last say – in the heat of the moment – people usually get really involved in the issue and it is nice to have a structure to guide you. This especially important for partnerships of 2 (so they can make decision in a timely manner).
  • Personal Culture: How do each of you view the business? Will you both want to invest equally in the business to grow it? Are you both cost consious? How do you view the company from a financial prospective – is it an extension of your wallet? Will you both want to reinvest in the company?

** I have used both in the above for simplicity purposes.

While it is very easy when starting out to always see the good in everyone and the future  – it is typically not till after you have created a partnership and times get tough you realize just what you have gotten yourself into.

So stop and think before you leap – and enjoy the ride.