Whether you’re an accountant thinking of expanding your service offering or a financial planner looking to start your own firm, a partnership is one of several structures to choose from
But picking the right person to go into business with can be challenging, and a business partner relationship takes a lot of careful consideration. Fortunately, there’s a lot to learn from some of the most famous duos (think Steve Jobs and Steve Woznaik from Apple or Bill Gates and Paul Allen from Microsoft).
Knowing what to look for in a business partner can save you time and money in the years to come. So if you’re thinking of making the jump, here are our top considerations to help you choose the right one.
Shared vision & values
Partnering with someone who has similar values to you is important to align on work ethic, expectations and overall direction for the business. This will also set the foundation for the business culture and provide guidance on current and future decisions. Starting a business takes dedication, so it’s a good idea to choose a partner who’s on the same page and prepared to hold up their end of the stick.
Successfully building a business is made a lot harder when it’s very existence is unclear. Working with someone who has the same vision for the business from the outset can save you money, time and personal conflicts in the future. Not only will this help you be unified to achieve business goals, but it will also go a long way in helping to provide clear outcomes for clients and attract the right staff along the way.
Someone you can trust
Trust is key in any relationship it’s no different in a business partnership. Finding a business partner you can trust and who operates on a similar code of conduct will help stay focused on business goals and moving ahead. Honest and open communication is critical and the ability to be forthcoming on matters such as money, mistakes and management styles will make the journey to success much smoother.
Complementary skills and expertise
While you’ll want to involve someone who has a certain level of experience and connections in your business field, a good business partner should also help your business make meaningful progress by bringing complementary skills to the table. Leveraging another person’s skills helps you stay focused on what you do best and helps you create a team that’s greater than the sum of its parts.
Personality compatibility can also be viewed through the lens of a personality profile such as Myers Briggs, Strengthsfinder 2.0 or the DISC profile. While they might not reveal the perfect combination, these tests can be helpful to compare strengths, weaknesses, and understand leadership differences. Some of the world’s most unlikely partnerships succeeded due to their co-founder’s distinct but compatible skill sets. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak is widely considered an entrepreneurial type that exhibits aspects of the Myers-Briggs ENTP (Extraverted – Intuitive- Thinking -Perceiving) personality type. Steve Jobs, on the other hand, is thought to be an ISTP (Introversion – Sensing – Thinking -Perceiving) type, well known for his spontaneous approach to work, ability to analyse data and objectively criticise the projects he worked on.
Make decisions about decisions
Your business partner should be someone who is willing to disagree with you if it’s in the best interest of your business. But decision making can be one of the most difficult aspects of a business partnership. Having a clear and effective decision-making process is essential, particularly in partnerships where priorities can vary for each side. Decisions may not need to be unanimous all the time, but having a clear framework that specifies who has input and authority over certain decisions can help keep the process amicable and efficient.
Plan for the end
Even for the most successful partnerships longevity is often limited. A formalised exit strategy in writing helps to protect the best interests of the business and its ability to stay afloat. Just a prenup for marriage, having a clear exit strategy from the outset of a partnership can help you avoid financial ramifications and can save you and your partner lots of professional baggage. An exit strategy should take into account the value of the business, buy/sell agreements, and the approach to be followed.
Resources to help
If you’re an accountant or adviser thinking about going into business with someone, you’ll want to do plenty of research before you begin. Here are some handy resources and directories to help you find a business partner near you.
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