We all know that business is not a proper place for an one-aloner. But we automatically make conclusion that a partnership in business is a magic wand to solve all our problems. We tend to think that it is always rather positive thing, and then may feel very disappointed when this setting of our world-view collides with the reality!
This article is the first one in the series of articles regarding partnership in business: myths, legends, misconceptions and the cold truth… It is based on my own experience combined with the bitter pills taken by other people from who I learned a lot. This article will be about:
- Good vs No-good partnerships
- Your chances of getting a business partner
Good vs No-Good Partnerships
Having a partner in business potentially (you may even read: allegedly) has a lot of perks: it is way easier to stay focused and energetical when you are surrounded by like-minded people; we always feel safer in the group; you will definitely help each other to overcome the downturns in your mood; you will have more ideas and creativity (some say: 1 + 1 equals 11); the group of people secures higher level of adequateness. And so on. Not surprising that venture capitalists would prefer to invest into teams rather than individuals.
So why did I say “allegedly” then? Because it is truth, but with bunch of niggles and caveats. And the list of exceptions sometimes is that long that it completely downplays the rule! In order not to be proofless, I will bring couple of examples.
Example 1: Tandem bike. Please imagine a tandem bike which you share with a partner, who sits behind you. You are pedaling as hard as you can, but after some time you start noticing that your partner tends to save strengths too much. In fact, you are pedaling singlehandedly, say, 70% of time. Carrying double weight, of course. Do you still think that such a partnership is beneficial for you?
I brought this analogy because I saw couple of startups like that. By the way, I’m not the author of this parallel. It was made up by my wife, Natalia, who also witnessed such distribution of the efforts in the aforementioned startups.
Example 2: Throwing fingers. Remember rock-paper-scissors? Please form a group of three. Your task is to throw fingers simultaneously, without any preparation and preliminary agreement. Goal: your group must get exactly 7 fingers in total. You may change this number if you want.
The purpose of this exercise is to demonstrate that even such a primitive interaction in group of three can be a problem. By the way, I tried this exercise couple of times with different groups of people. And it never worked from the first attempt.
Moral of these examples: not all partnerships will be beneficial for you, and in many cases an interaction between people leaves much to be desired. In further articles we are going to formulate the criteria of good partners/partnerships in business. Moreover, we will try to cover the measures how to fix, mitigate or eliminate the above mentioned and other potential problems .
The idea of partnership is based on mutual benefits: you must amplify good qualities of each other and mutually compensate bad qualities of each other. It must be a win-win situation. Otherwise it turns into parasitizing. I will rephrase Lope de Vega: “Partnership prefers equality”. You don’t have to exactly same, but you must be comparable with your partner in business.
Now let’s talk about your chances of partnership.
When you just started your entrepreneurship and you don’t have any experience under your belt, you have very limited chances for partnership. You can pick up a partner only from the same kind of beginners. Anyone who is more experienced than you (and there is a lot of such people out there), wouldn’t benefit a lot from any partnership with a newbie. Unless, of course, you have $10 mln to invest into business, but we do not take such extremes into account.
Time and experience will make you more covetable business partner. And as you evolve, your chances to find more or less good potential partner will increase. But just to some extent.
Let’s assume that you continue to grow as an entrepreneur non-stop. After some moment you will find out that now you can find fewer and fewer potential partners. Yes, more and more people would find interaction with you beneficial for them. But not as much for you, right? There will be fewer and fewer people comparable to you.
The chart below illustrates the described trend:
This happens to everybody who surpasses a certain level of skills in business. I will try to use Steve Jobs as an example. I know it is a thankless job because here we refer to rather myths and legends, but nevertheless. Do you think Steve Jobs had really equal partners? I ask about the last couple of decades. Not about the very beginning, when Steve Wozniak was such a partner, but about the Pixar-and-later times. Can you name anybody? I disbelieve that, and the reason being: Steve Jobs became such an utmost entrepreneur, that it was almost impossible for him (and even not needed) to find anybody comparable to him. Moreover, other business gurus, comparable to him, they run their own very successful businesses. In truth, after you reached quite high level of entrepreneurship, it becomes like among the immortals: “There can be only one”.
Summary of Part 1
- Contrary to common belief partnership may be not necessarily beneficial for you;
- It can be mutually rewarding on certain conditions;
- You may face significant difficulties in interaction;
- Beware of parasites;
- Your chances to find a good business partner change with your skills level: very low for a beginner, they grow with the skills level till a certain point, after which they start declining more and more.
To be continued in the article Partnership In Business. Part 2 – Right Questions.