April 19, 2024

Innovate Biz Pro

Innovation that Brightens the Future

How to Find a Business Partner in 2024

8 min read

In today’s challenging economic climate, starting a business can be an incredibly lonely journey to undertake. Having a business partner alongside not only brings companionship – it also brings an extra set of skills, funding, and ideas to help scale your business.

There’s no easy-fix, ‘swipe-right’ Tinder-esque solution for finding a business partner. But that doesn’t mean you need to go with the first willing person you can find.

The below guide will tell you how to find the Ben to your Jerry, including what to look for and what to avoid. We’ll also outline the pros and cons of a business partner, so you can decide if two heads really are better than one.

What should I look for in a business partner?

When thinking about how to find a business partner, define first exactly what you’re looking for. After all, a business partner needs to bring more than just extra funds to the table. You need to take time to ensure that you have the right mix of skills that complement each other.

Remember this is a professional relationship and therefore when you disagree on something it is best to leave emotions and personal feelings out of it. That being said, entrepreneurs have strong personalities. It’s best to know someone fully before you commit to such a huge undertaking as starting a new business.

Here are the seven key questions you should answer before even considering starting a business with someone:

  • Passion – are they enthusiastic about the business? Enthusiasm is a key ingredient if you’re going to be starting a business, as you’ll be spending a lot of your time on the project.
  • Reliability – what are their plans for the upcoming months? Are they willing or able to commit to the business for the forseeable future?
  • Skills – what are they and what gaps do they fill in your own offering? How will they help you to achieve your business objective? Don’t be afraid to consider a partner in a different field! Cross-sector experience can sometimes be key to a business’s success with new audiences.
  • Fiscal status – do they have any outstanding debt? This could limit your access to resources such as loans.
  • Values – do they have a vision for the business? Do they have similar morals and values with regards to ambition and work ethic?
  • Compatibility – do you actually get on? It sounds simple, but any relationship issues you have up-front are likely to be exacerbated once your business is up and running.
  • Location – if your business partner is based hundreds of miles away, you might find yourself limited when it comes to collaboration. Conversely, it might be useful if you’re trying to expand into new markets.

Where can I find a business partner?

Networking events and meet-ups

Use networking events as an opportunity to share your business interests. You may not meet the right partner/prospective co-founder straight away but you can build a network of people and eventually meet someone well suited through an associate.

  • The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) hosts a range of networking events across up and down the UK.
  • Eventbrite is another easy way to find tickets to smaller, local events. Simple search on Google for ‘business’ or ‘networking’ in your local area.
  • Your local Chamber of Commerce runs over 200 B2B networking events a year as well as breakfast briefings that are exclusive to members. There are also paid-for and ‘prestige events’ that claim to offer businesses with high-level networking.
  • Coworking brands, such as WeWork and Regus, often host small business or startup events that can be free to attend.
    Professional bodies often provide a members area where you can network with people in the same professional sector as you.

Your social circle

Some people choose to start a business with someone they know. However, this isn’t always the right avenue for everyone, especially if you’re looking for a co-founder with a certain set of skills or expertise. Starting a business with a family or friend can also put strain on your existing relationship.

We recently spoke to Jade Artry, co-founder of dating app Lovedoc, who started the business with her childhood friend, Hossam Elgamal.

Jade tells Startups that the two friends had “a few teething issues at first” in taking their relationship to a professional level.

“Building a business with friends can be tricky,” she says. “You want the process to be fun and inclusive, but at the same time, you need to make smart decisions. Leaning on each others expertise, and learning to see them as [someone] with X amount of years in experience in X – is the best way to approach it.”

Online communities

If you can’t make it to events in person, channels like LinkedIn are a great way to connect with like-minded businesses. These conversations can start with the occasional ‘@’ but could eventually blossom into a fully-fledged business partnership.

Similarly, Facebook is no longer considered just a personal social media platform. It’s now a fully-fledged business networking page with a huge number of ‘closed’ groups dedicated to regional, national and sector-specific networking.

Accelerator and incubator programmes

An accelerator programme could offer the opportunity to find a worthy business partner. These “boot-camp” style training programmes are very common in the tech industry and are focused on preparing fledgling entrepreneurs for the challenges of business life.

If you manage to get onto one of these programmes – though consider this carefully as many accelerators take an equity stake in return for membership – you will find yourself mixing with like-minded individuals; the perfect opportunity to pitch ideas and collaborate with potential partners.

Investors

Investors are primarily thought of as a source of cash for your business but their expertise and track record in business are, more often than not, just as valuable to a business.

If you’re a rookie, seeking out an investor who understands and believes in your vision could give you the direction you need to make your business a success and, if an investor feels you need a co-founder, will often put you in touch with relevant contacts in your industry and help you to forge new relationships.

What are the benefits of having a business partner?

Overseeing the day-to-day operations of a business is one of the most difficult jobs a person can take on. Having someone to go through the ups and downs means you can share that burden with someone else who you trust.

But the positives aren’t all personal. Having a business partner can also give you access to a much wider range of resources and talent to pick from.

Another skillset

Starting a business on your own can be a great lesson in entrepreneurship, but finding a partner gives you immediate access to another set of skills, experiences and ideas.

Say you’re starting an event planning agency. You might have experience in B2B working, in which case you’re probably best-placed to take charge of outreach and building a network of contacts. If your business partner has management experience, they might be better in-house organising the planning and admin of starting your firm.

Of course, it’s important to recognise that, regarless of a partner’s area of expertise, their ideas should still be listened to. But, as Jade Artry stresses, “when it comes to making bigger/final decisions, I think that should always be made by the person with expertise in that area.

“Those decisions should always be made with data, previous case studies or industry learnings in mind.”

An alternate perspective

Jade Artry recommends thinking of your partners not just as managers, but “different types of user”. That’s because having a second pair of eyes can have a huge impact on your existing business plan by helping you to sort the good from the bad.

If you already have a fairly well-formed business and are bringing a new partner on board, ensure you remain open-minded to their views and allow space for them to develop.

Receiving feedback from someone with experience in a different industry or region of the UK can be crucial for helping you to flesh out your idea and ultimately improve your audience offering.

And, if you encounter an issue, having a business partner who can offer you a different perspective on problems will ultimately lead to more effective solutions.

You want the process to be fun and inclusive, but at the same time, you need to make smart decisions

Lead generation

Almost certainly, your business partner will have experience working within the industry and will bring with them a set of contacts from their previous roles that can improve your business’ prospects and help gain higher profits in the long run.

Be careful not to break any previous employee contracts with this benefit, however. Many firms stipulate that their workers cannot contact their clients upon leaving the company – a clause that can cause legal difficulties if not adhered to.

Access to finance

Starting a business alone can be hard if you are struggling with finances – particularly in today’s tough economy. 

Combining resources will give you more capital to invest into the business. Plus, you could also potentially secure more money by applying for separate, individual loans.

Practically speaking, investors – particularly venture capitalists – are also more likely to invest in a business that is run by a team. They tend to trust startups with multiple founders as the responsibility is shared and the risk therefore reduced.

What can go wrong in a business partnership?

Not having a partnership agreement

Business partnerships are a relatively informal agreement. Because of this, they can pose some challenges, such as tension between partners, if everyone isn’t doing their equal share of work.

You can work together on a verbal agreement alone, but it might be helpful to have something in writing defining the terms of the partnership, such as responsibilities, liabilities and matters of ownership.

Here are the details you must should include in your agreement:

  • Contribution – how much capital is each partner paying into the business?
  • Ownership – what percentage of the company does each partner own?
  • Distribution – how will your profits and losses be distributed amongst the partners?
  • Responsibilites – which areas of the business will a partner look after? (for example, financial reporting)

Relationship breakdown

Business partnerships are a lot like marriage. When it works, it works, when it doesn’t, it can end in a messy break-up. Arguments will occur during a partnership but some may be more manageable than others.

Minimise the fallout from such scenarios by keeping all communication on crucial decisions transparent. Doing so will ensure you maintain trust amongst your partners as any choice you make will directly affect them.

Keep things professional and put any major disagreements up to a vote so that you can resolve them diplomatically or by negotitation.

Not having an exit strategy

In the event of a disagreement becoming unmanageable, ensure you discuss in advance what your exit strategy may look like in case you need it.

Examples of an exit strategy ideas include:

  • Selling the business to another management team
  • Merging the company with another
  • Selling the business to family or a friend
  • Ending the business’ legal existence and paying off any remaining debts to fellow partners

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