One of the biggest decisions you’ll make when you start a company is whether you want to be out there all alone. Do you want a partner? Or do you prefer the control of being the sole owner? Here are 5 questions to ask yourself before you decide if you want a partner, and if you do, whether you’ve found the right person:
1. Do you have what it takes on your own? Ask yourself if you have the essential skill sets and talents that will be crucial to your business. That doesn’t mean you can’t start a photography studio if you don’t know accounting. You can hire someone to take on those non-core tasks. But if you’re a creative person and need the balance of a business mind, or vise versa, a partner can be invaluable.
2. What’s your decision-making style? If you’re the kind of person who makes decisions quickly and confidently, then having to clear things with a partner will slow you down and might make you feel like you’re getting held back in a three-legged race. One of the most powerful aspects of a small business is that you can make a decision and take action immediately, unlike a large corporation where the slightest change in course is like turning a tanker. On the other hand, if you like the idea of having someone to bounce ideas off, brainstorm and help think things through, you might feel more comfortable with the emotional support inherent in being part of a team.
3. Are you willing to work at a partnership relationship? A business partnership is a lot like a marriage. It’s not always easy. There will be times you disagree, times when one of you feels like the other isn’t pulling his or her weight, maybe even times when you can’t stand the sound of your partner’s breathing. On the other hand, your relationship with your partner can be the best part of being in business. The ideal partnership is one in which each partner thinks life is much better together than it would be apart.
4. Would you trust your partner with your life? I’ve always remembered this great scene from West Wing when someone asks the president how he feels about his chief of staff. Without hesitation, President Bartlett says, “I would trust Leo with my life.” Do you feel that way about the person you have in mind for a business partner? Having that sense of trust, of being able to count on each other no matter what, will be especially important when the going gets tough.
5. Do you and your partner have similar values? It’s okay if you and your partner have different personality types. In fact, that can be a real help to your business. But a partnership can be difficult if you don’t share the same values on the big issues like integrity and honesty. Think about the values that are non-negotiable to you, whether that’s life balance or loyalty or freedom, and see how they match up with your potential partner’s values.