Business With a Partner: Are You Kidding Or Are We Kidding Ourselves?

I, for one, have always been against partnership in business. Yet, when I read from books like Start-Up of You By Reid Hoffman and Ben Casanocha about the power of teams and that it really takes a team to pull off a successful startup, I am humbled.

In the Book, Reid writes:

“No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy, if you are playing a solo game, you’ll always lose out to a team”.

He then brings in a case points:

“Athletes need coaches and trainers; child prodigies need parents and teachers; directors need producers and actors; politicians need donors and strategists; scientists need lab partners and mentors”

Reid later drops names (for good) to drive the point home:

“Penn needed teller. Ben needed Jerry. Steve Jobs needed Steve Wozniak. Indeed, teamwork is eminently on display in the startup world”

Ben and Reid have a point: very few startups started out on two legs of one person; most startups started out with partners. But, aren’t there problems with partnership? What if a partner peters out? What if you lose everything to your partner who laughs all the way to a bank? Let’s explore:

Partnership is fine But Where is the Due Diligence?

Andrew Dumont pointed out great tips in Partnership Trap on SeoMoz.org’s Whiteboard Friday last week and he pretty much condenses all that you need to do if you want to join hands with a partner to start your business. Is the partnership mutually beneficial? Is the partnership in line with the broad vision? Does your partner sleep with the same (almost) that you do for the company? Finally, look at softer issues such as culture and work habits because that affects the workflow.

Partner isn’t always another person; it could be a team that you hire

Forget the semantics at play here: if you do get a partner to work with (the buddies you drink with, your relatives, and your family don’t make for automatic inclusions into the list of potentials for partnerships, by the way), go ahead and groove. Partnership could be with a person, a couple of great people, and/or another company. You can join hands with any one as far as it feeds your strategic plan. Hire a team and each one of those team members are as good as partners.

Partnership is leverage

So, whether it’s a special personal who backs you up, compensates your skills (a geek meets a marketing champion?), or shares the same dream of making it big (with work to show for it), the important point is that partnership (or hiring others) brings leverage to your business. That’s just Entrepreneurship 101.

Partnership isn’t risk; going at it alone is

Most entrepreneurs I talk to (I was guilty of this myself, of course) think that partnership is risky. I now realize that not getting into partnership is risky. By doing things all by yourself, you sacrifice time and sanity. By not hiring, you aren’t running a business at all; you just self-contract yourself to the endless slavery that you never wanted to while you were at those cubicles.

If there’s no partnership or leverage, there’s no business. What do you think?