Though most entrepreneurs start out alone, new businesses increasingly start as partnerships. Good partners share the workload, the risk, have complementary skills, and provide second opinions. Your sources for business partners will depend significantly on your previous experience. You may have to explore far outside your bubble, but if the business idea is good, then the right business partner is out there.
If you’re starting a business in a field where you have little experience, you’re probably going to have to do a lot of networking to find a business partner. You’ll be approaching people with more experience, so make sure you have good new ideas and a solid business plan to bring to the table. Having strong confidence in these ideas will help you get through.
Start making contacts at trade shows, local business association meetings, and professional associations, depending on the type of field you’re looking to enter. Make sure you can concisely break down what your business is, and don’t be shy about asking people for connections.
Consider also looking at volunteer and non-profit work to build up your resume and network. A wide range of energetic, confident people work at these organizations who might know important people or have the makings of good potential partners themselves. Coming into contact with a broad cross-section of people will also help you work out kinks in your business plans. Pitch your ideas to willing listeners, and take constructive criticism.
If you’ve had good relationships with bosses and other experienced business leaders in the past, consider them as potential partners and ask them for advice. It might seem awkward working with a former boss in an equal partnership, but the additional experience they bring is often invaluable.
If former mentors suggest a partner, be sure to get to know them well before jumping in. Just because someone you trust recommended them, it does not necessarily mean they are the right fit. Maybe they worked well with someone you trust, but it does not mean they’ll work well with you.
Consider former coworkers as well. Their abilities should be easier to judge, and you’ll already know if you work well together, whether they share your vision, and whether you can trust them. However, avoid coworkers that are too similar in skills and experience. Consider people you know well, but who worked in separate teams or departments. For instance, someone from marketing might partner well with a coworker from design.
Different Skill Sets
Entrepreneurs tend to be big on vision, but uninterested in the nitty-gritty details of running a business. A more technically minded person, such as an accountant or an engineer, could help keep you down to earth when you get lost in the cloudy possibilities of tomorrow.
On the other hand, if you’re a tinkerer with a great idea, a good managerial type could help you get out of your box. They can take care of the long-term planning to bring your detailed idea forward into a more generalized environment.
Friends and Family
Many people avoid choosing friends and family as business partners, and often for a good reason. But just because it can be a bad idea does not mean it always is. More than any of the other suggestions given, you probably know your friends and family well, which means you probably know whether you can get along with them and whether you can trust them. Now, this does not necessarily mean picking your best friend or favorite sibling as your business partner; they must share your vision but offer their own set of skills.
Take advantage of all your contacts and search widely for a business partner, but don’t forget people closer to home. Someone is out there who shares your vision, can take the work, and offers complementary skills. It might take a little time and networking, but a good partner can take a business to places an individual entrepreneur can’t make it alone.