You may have launched your business more or less by yourself—but as the company grows and new opportunities present themselves, you may find yourself faced with the choice of whether or not to bring in a partner.
This is a big decision, and not one to take lightly. A lot of companies are made by strategic partnerships. Then again, a lot of companies are broken by bad partnerships.
Let me say this right off the bat, then: There is nothing wrong with choosing not to bring in a partner. Maybe your company has grown to a level you’re comfortable with, and you’re content to stay there, running the show on your own. There’s nothing in the world wrong with that.
But if you do want to grow, and you know you cannot do it on your own, bringing in a partner is one of the best ways to do so—providing you’re alright parting with some piece of equity in the company.
Preparing for a Partner
If that’s the road you choose to go down, here are a few words of advice.
Don’t ignore your gut. Your instincts about a person are not invalid here. If you simply do not like or trust a person, well, that means it’s going to be awfully hard to develop any kind of a sound working relationship with them. Trust that instinct.
Look for compliments. You want someone whose vision for the company will align with your own, but you also need someone who can provide things that you can’t—whether that means expertise, resources, or connections.
Get everything on paper. Each person’s role, boundaries, expectations, and exit strategy should be formally noted in a partner’s agreement.
Don’t rush into anything. Some of the business owners I’ve talked to say that you should know someone for at least a year—talking with them, vetting them—before making a partnership. Your mileage may vary, but certainly make sure there is a relationship in place.
Take a personality test. And, ask the other person to do the same. Get a better sense of how your personalities will work together—or how they might potentially clash.
The bottom line: Be careful in picking a partner. Know what you are getting into. And trust your gut—always a good practice in the world of business.