The following answers are provided by The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC recently published #FixYoungAmerica: How to Rebuild Our Economy and Put Young Americans Back to Work (for Good), a book of 30+ proven solutions to help end youth unemployment.
A. The Dating Game
When searching for a potential startup founder, you must search based on how you would if you were looking for a long-term relationship. You need to look for someone that can share the long-term vision of the company. Founding and running a business is like being married and having a child — you’ve got to remember that its for better, for worse, for richer, for poor and in sickness and in health.
A. Are You My Twin?
Your startup partner should share the same vision for the business and have a skill set that compliments yours. Make sure the candidate is financially secure and equal to you in terms of past experience and future potential.
A. Aligned Goals
It’s easy to get excited about the big launch and the early stages of the business, but make sure you sit down with your potential partner(s) and talk through the long-term vision for the company. How big do you want to be? Where will your home base be? How much money will you each need to live? Do you have other commitments that could be distracting? Are you all in for the long haul?
A. Similar Work Ethic
Working with someone who doesn’t seem to putting as much effort into your startup as you are is a fast way to break up a partnership. You can learn new skills, figure out scheduling issues and generally make every other part of a partnership work if you have to, but there is no way to change someone’s work ethic.
A. Let’s Get Married!
Starting a business together is a long term endeavor, and you shouldn’t consider co-founding with someone you wouldn’t be willing to marry. This means good communication, ability to adapt, and someone you can trust.
A. Lifestyle Match
Choose a startup partner who has similar lifestyle values and desires so you’re working for the same goals. If one partner wants to travel and the other loves 60-hour work weeks, then it’s harder to overcome the sense of imbalance — even if you reach your goals.
A. Strong Communication
There are many factors that determine whether or not a business partnership is going to work well. However, strong communication skills play an important role in every startup environment and are imperative in choosing a partner. There will always be disagreements and issues to work through, and good communication channels will make them that much easier to solve.
A. Authentic Realism
You want to partner with someone who is firmly based in reality in terms of how much time, money and energy it will require to make the venture successful. You also want to be sure that they’re being realistic about their own passion for the business and about potential challenges that may arise. Talking through and planning for difficulties should be welcomed, instead of causing defensiveness.
A. Lose the Fluffy Support
I’ve worked with thousands of women entrepreneurs and the biggest mistake I see women in particular make is that they often choose what I call a “moral support partner” which is usually a friend or spouse. Ask yourself why you really need a partner, what expertise that person brings to your business, what your day-to-day roles will be, and whether you’re willing to risk your personal relationship.
A. Evergreen Partners
When securing a new internal partner, it is best they work to help you throughout the life cycle of the business. Conduct a gap analysis (with them) of your business and inefficiencies and bring them in based off their skill set to overcome such challenges. External partners are primarily established when the net profits are favorable and other internal factors are considered (vision, focus, etc).
A. Complimentary Skills
A startup partner is ideally someone who can bring a new set of skills to the table. Business is all about many functions coming together to create a top-notch organization that benefits customers — having redundant skills in the startup stage is not ideal when you’re contending with so many unknowns. Seek out a startup partner who can bring something new to the table.