Starting up a business with a partner could be the very best thing you’ll ever do. It could also screw you over royally. Choosing the right business partner is crucial. It’s as important as choosing your husband or wife…perhaps even more important. Your husband or wife (should) love you unconditionally – they’ll forgive you most things, except maybe murder, adultery and consistent splurging on ASOS but your business partner isn’t bound by the same emotional handcuffs. So, what do you need to remember about choosing your business partner and launching a startup business?
GOOD FRIENDS DON’T NECESSARILY MAKE GOOD BUSINESS PARTNERS
You may think that your best friend is the perfect person to set up a small business with. You know each other inside out, you’ve got so much in common and you’ll never get sick of hanging out together. What could possibly go wrong? Short answer: everything. Your personal relationship may be tighter than Vin Diesel’s thigh grip but your professional relationship is new and spongy and vulnerable. It’s so easy for personal stuff to overflow into business stuff that before you know it you could find yourself arguing over percentages just like that time you argued over those shoes that you definitely, definitely didn’t borrow and forget to return. I’m not saying that going into business with your friend doesn’t work, but you must set clear boundaries from the outset.
TALK ABOUT EVERYTHING
Mention everything. I mean everything. Don’t assume that they won’t be interested, or it isn’t that important or it’s not within their remit. If you fail to mention something, even innocently, it could come back to bite you on the ass and then whaddya know? They think you’re hiding something, you think they’re unreasonable, they don’t trust you, you think they’re neurotic. It’s never a great way to work. Take time each week to sit down and talk about your lists – what you’re doing, who you’re emailing, conversations that you’ve had and everything in between.
MAKE SURE YOUR SKILLS COMPLEMENT EACH OTHER
You both LOVE social media? You are both amazing sales people? Sounds like a match made in heaven, right? Oh. So. Wrong. You need to make sure you business partner is great at all the stuff that you don’t want to do, don’t like to do or aren’t good at doing. Know what your limits are and if you’re terrible at talking the talk but amazing at all the figures then get on board with a wordsmith who’s shit at maths. If you’re too similar you’ll find yourself treading on each other’s toes and being unclear about whose responsibility is whose.
YOU ARE ALWAYS A TEAM
As mentioned above, they are better at some things, you are better at others. Sometimes their skills will bring in the dollar, sometimes it’ll be your skills that create the cash. If you’re a partnership, it doesn’t matter who brought the cash in – it belongs to the business and, unless you’ve stipulated something else beforehand – that gets divided up between you. You both take responsibility for everything – if you’re partner fucks up (they will eventually) then the business has fucked up and that means you’ve fucked up too. It may seem unfair but no one wants to see cracks in a partnership. Fucking up doesn’t actually matter most of the time, as long as you deal with it well. Have your partner’s back and defend the business like it was your baby.
SET THE RULES
Make sure you know what’s what about your start up before you start. Sit down and talk it all out – go through the ‘what ifs’? Be clear on everything from the hours you expect each other to put in, how the money works, who’s in charge of what, what you hope for the business and what you want the business to do. Make sure you’re both working towards the same goals and be honest about what you can and can’t commit to. You can make this as formal or informal as you feel comfortable with (the bigger the business gets, the more formal this needs to be) but make sure you write it down somewhere and each keep a copy.
DON’T SCREW EACH OTHER OVER
If you come up against a sticky situation or you decide it’s not working or you just need to get out – be upfront and honest about it. No one can make you run a business you don’t want to run but they can expect you to be honest and open about it. No matter how tempting some offers may be, if it requires you to not be 100% honest about it to your business partner (and I’m including just ‘not telling them’ in that) then that’s not ok. Don’t let greed, ego or pride get in the way – if any of those things are an issue then your partnership is going to suffer sooner rather than later.