When should you start looking for a business partner? I started looking for one from the beginning of my business, but I didn’t settle on one until just recently. I love organizing and working with people, but some of the decisions I didn’t want to make on my own. I utilized mentors, my business team members, relatives and friends as sounding boards for a while, but their hearts weren’t in it, or they didn’t have the time to invest.
I realized my company deserved new ideas and that I could benefit from a new set of eyes on things. I felt like it might be time to have another person on board with a vested interest in the company that could help where I needed strength. Yes, I had done amazingly on my own, but I also knew that if I had someone with the skills I lacked, I could do even better! And, the cherry on top... my clients would be able to benefit from this strength.
When I started my search, I drew up a list of needs. Your company may have different needs than mine, but here’s what got me started:
Someone I could trust
Someone interested in helping grow a company
Someone with compassion for small businesses
Someone with experience in areas small businesses need that I lack
I didn’t want to randomly add people, and I wasn’t in a rush because I had run things well on my own. Adding a partner would only help things be better. I didn’t tell anyone I was thinking about them as a business partner until I was sure they fit those criteria. I met and got to know quite a few different people with connections, backgrounds and personalities: a technology consultant, a customer service manager for an airline, a dental marketing consultant. All seemed to be great fits in different ways and had the skills and experience to take on the tasks ahead. But, in the end, we saw the future of the business differently, as well as the role of clients.
How did I tell if they’d work? I took them on as a consultant on a few projects. We got opportunities to work together, and I got to watch them problem-solve. After these trial and error processes, no one stuck. It just didn’t “feel right”.
Rachel and I met at Westminster Gore School of Business’s Alumni Service project. Already we both had something in common. On top of that, we both love small business and have compassion for people, choosing to spend our “extra time” serving in the community. We got to talking and started having monthly lunches where we talked about business –– for fun! At that point, I got to know more about her successful business and realized it was an unexpected complement to the way I run my business: if she wanted to partner, we could offer marketing, process and technology support to small businesses with the research and sure direction that we hadn’t been able to before. We got so excited (on both sides)! We started to hypothetically put together what we could both offer, where she wanted to fit within our company, what I could offer her, and, most importantly, what we could offer small businesses and how the products/structure could be reorganized in order to build something better.
Rachel is a wonderful business partner. She’s sassy, strong, kind and compassionate. She can stand on her own two feet but also brings compassion for the clients, problem solving to help find solutions they need. She’s highly knowledgeable, but also can slow down enough to find a solution that fits the scenarios/temporal struggles of the client. Some of these are similar to my skills, but some are completely opposite. It’s important to find someone who is strong where you are weak. But what’s more important is to make sure it’s even on what you give to them as well.
We started with an op
en and honest conversation about what each of our needs were. We have a meeting each month where we touch base and ask how the roles are going for both of us. Things have been going very well and I have been blessed by Rachel’s fresh perspective and analytical side. She had benefited from my “get it done” attitude and how quickly small businesses can move things forward. It really is similar to how to find a partner in life: you look for something you lack, if you’d like to go through life with that person and “feel good” about them, you lay everything out on the table, then you move forward with faith believing that good can come from it.
Benefits to having a business partner:
Strength in your weak areas
More potential for capital
Access to their connections
Finding better ways to do things
Someone to share the hard times as well as the good times with
Talk with about decisions that affect the future of your business
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