Sitting back in my school’s cozy auditorium, I listened with rapt attention to a riveting talk on entrepreneurship by Andy Dunn, founder of the popular e-commerce driven apparel brand – Bonobos. In the course of his spiel, he used a brilliant analogy to underscore the importance of having the right co-founders in business; one that swooned and drew raucous laughter and applause from the audience. He said, ‘Fall for the perfect partner, not the priciest ring.’
What’s more important in a conjugal life – the person you will have fun living with or the one who offers the more expensive gifts? At the risk of sounding experienced (no clue at all!), I guess there’s nothing like getting lucky enough to stumble upon one with both attributes! However, in reality, if you had a choice, logic and emotion would unequivocally answer the former. And that’s exactly the point that Andy was trying to hit home as he paralleled the simile to entrepreneurship. It’s wiser, safer, and absolutely paramount to team up with person(s) who you will just love doing business with.
Finding the right business partner is one of the most seemingly easiest but practically difficult tasks. From Silicon Valley to the meandering alleys of Dhaka, it’s the same old story. I have heard of many narratives where two or more persons scramble to co-found an initiative in a moment of frenzy, but part ways much sooner than they had even imagined. Not only that, this sad phenomenon can also be traced in many more apparently committed partnerships. As a spillover, personal relationships frail, a brilliant idea falls flat, and the intended economic/social impact barely gets to see the light of day.
Whether drawing knowledge from listening to inspiring talks, reading a book, or reflecting on and analyzing observed events, I have come to the realization that it’s infinitely more imperative to tag along with the right partner, or more, than to just select whimsically. As famous business author, Jim Collins, beautifully articulates, “Leaders that go from good to great start not with ‘where’ but with ‘who.’ They start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats.”
As a co-founder of a humble start-up, if I may dare to share my thoughts on the traits that you will need to look at while looking for the perfect partner, I’d say the three most important elements, and necessarily in a sequential order, are: trust, commitment, and proficiency.
Look, at the end of the day, you have to realize that your capacity to earn breads will depend in part on the actions of the other partner(s). Work with someone whom you can blindly trust. Someone who is willing to go to the world’s end to see through the idea you have conceptualized. Someone who will not stab your back, siphon off finance, or malign your image.
Once that level of trust is established, you will need to understand how much time he/she can give. Contingent on that, you will be able to determine what amount of responsibilities he/she can burden. Now keep in mind that everyone has a personal life and as such priorities are meant to vary. While some experts opine that partners should share as much off-work hours as possible to fortify kinship, others differ to say that as long as the professional commitments are met, you shouldn’t even care if they live in another part of the world. Bottom-line is, you have to use your best judgment, an offshoot from the established level of trust, to measure what best suits your requirements.
The final straw is dexterity. Always look for someone who can bring a different set of skill to the table than that of yours. There’s little point in having co-founders with a complementary skill-set as that predisposes homogeneity. It’s best to work with someone who adds a new feather to the organizational repertoire, in effect broadening the competency bandwidth.
Believe me, the gains of undertaking the search for the perfect partner is worth the pain. The power of a successful partnership holds the potential to weather menacing blizzards that will leave you awestruck. While there’s no guarantee that it will always culminate in a success, the odds of getting it right are significantly higher. So next time you are in a dilemma between choosing a person or a largess, know that falling in love with the perfect human is more gracious and desirable than getting enamored by other fleeting parcels of life, or in this case business.
The writer is a Teacher and the Founder of ULit.