The road to a successful business is paved with risks, so it’s best not to walk it alone. Any entrepreneur is only as strong as their partnerships, the collaborators, investors, and mentors that help make dreams into reality. Partnerships have played an essential role in most major corporations at some point, and finding the right partners is often the first step start-ups take to getting their business off the ground; why else does Shark Tank exist?
But, for lots of entrepreneurs, finding a partnership is easier said than done, and finding the right partnership can be even harder. So I’ve collected a few tips on how to root out a partnership that will grow your business and open up opportunities.
Network, network, network
The first step to finding partnerships is being in the right place at the right time. This means going to as many networking events as you can stomach — in person, that is, not just over LinkedIn. Live networking events like conferences, talks, conventions, launches; anywhere that people who work in your industry gather regularly.
Learning an important facet for networking: you’ve got to find out where the big fish you’re trying to attract hang out. This is where LinkedIn comes in handy, to narrow down your event choice so that you can be precise in your networking. Learning comes in again when you’re actually talking to someone. Top entrepreneurs recommend using the first ten to fifteen minutes of a conversation to learn as much about a person by asking considered questions and actively listening.
Humans, not business tools
The killer of any networking conversation is when the person you’re talking to realizes it’s a networking conversation. By this, I mean a conversation whose only outcome is business-motivated, financial. Unsurprisingly, most people like to be treated as people, rather than a vehicle for business growth. That means, when you’re networking, show a genuine effort to build a personal connection. After all, you may be working with this person for a long time to come, you want to at least try to get along.
Look for a balance
The best business partners fill out your weaknesses, giving you a balanced spread of skills you couldn’t achieve by yourself. When researching and networking, try to find people who excel in areas you don’t, rather than doubling up on what you’re already good at. If you’re a sales whizz you might be attracted to another salesperson, but if neither of you has any technical knowledge you’ve not solved your partnership problem.
Somewhere you both should agree on is values. It doesn’t matter how much money they can invest in your ideas if they don’t agree with them in the first place. It should be apparent pretty soon into talking with someone whether you share values with them, so it’s good to trust that instinct. As your relationship develops, figure out if you have a similar trajectory in mind with regards to the future of the collaboration.
Trust, and contingency
Even once you’ve determined you and your partner share values and complement each other’s strengths, the relationship is fraught if you can trust one another. If all goes well, you will be collectively building a profitable business, something that requires openness and compromise. Both of you need the humility to compromise or at least the openness to admit you might be wrong. Without that, you’re careening towards a divided company.
Then again, this is, at the end of the day, a business partnership and not a marriage. You have the benefit of distance from which you can set out the rules of the relationship on paper before anything gets too serious. Even if trust is not a worry for you, setting out a contract determining the responsibilities, powers, and ownership of each partner is good standard practice and a useful reference point during unforeseen disagreements.
Business partnerships may not be marriages, but they certainly share a lot of traits. You will share a lot of time and money with your partners, and even the strongest unions aren’t devoid of arguments. Still, if you’ve found the right person, they’ll make you stronger and, hopefully, happier.
Mildred Delgado is a marketing strategist at Academic Writing Service. She works closely with marketing teams to create sites that promote the values and best aspects of a company. She also enjoys writing, reading, and is an amateur virologist in her spare time.