How to find a business partner
Startups identifies the best sources to find a business partner or co-founder - and exactly where to look
Key places to find a business partner:
- Your social circle
- Your professional network
- Networking events and meet-ups
- Online networking
- Accelerators and incubators
What to look for in a business partner
When thinking about how to find a business partner, define first exactly what you're looking for. A business partner needs to bring more than just extra funds to the table. You need to take time to ensure that you have the right mix of skills that complement each other. If you’re more numbers orientated then maybe you need someone who is a bit more creative or if pitching is your thing but organisation and admin isn’t then you should look for someone who can excel in those areas.
What’s more, you actually need to like that person. Chances are you will be spending A LOT of time with them as you grow your business and you’re bound to be more productive if you get along. Remember this is a professional relationship and therefore when you disagree on something it is best to leave emotions and personal feelings out of it. When seeking a business partner look for someone who has similar morals and values with regards to ambition and work ethic and generally so that you can build a shared vision that you can agree on.
It is also useful to find a partner who lives close by or who you can get in contact with easily. There is no use you having a partner if you can’t get in touch.
|What do Google, Ben and Jerry’s and Ann Summers have in common?
Answer: Aside from being multi-million pound enterprises, they were all built by multiple co-founders who worked together to make these brands what they are today.
Where to find a business partner
Your social circle
You could start by looking at your immediate social circle such as family and friends. This isn't always the right avenue for everyone, especially if you're looking for a co-founder with a certain set of skills or expertise.
It's also important to note that starting a business with a family or friend can be stressful and, if you do end up disagreeing with your business partner, your personal issues may inhibit your ability to come to an agreement and ultimately lead your business to fail. What’s more the failure of the business could equate to the end of the friendship – a great personal loss. That being said, many successful business partnerships have come from existing relationships, as long as that person has the same drive and vision.
Your professional network
Are there any colleagues that would be interested in going into business with you? Perhaps someone you went to school with? Someone you have worked with in the past that has an entrepreneurial mindset? If you don’t have a potential business partner in your immediate circle you can branch out and look to your professional contacts.
If so, this may be a good place to start your search particularly as you are already familiar with their work style and ethics and can decide whether you would be able to work with them. Don't want to go into business with a friend or family member? Explore these options…
Networking events and meet-ups
Search for meetups/networking events on the web that are local to you, or check out the following organisations/resources for help in finding a business partner:
- The Federation of Small Businesses (fsb) hosts a range of networking events across up and down the UK.
- 4Networking is another regional meetup group. After initial introductions, you can make 10 minute appointments with people you are most interested in speaking to. This format is a great way to hone in on the people who could potentially be worthy business partners.
- Your local Chamber of commerce runs over 200 B2B networking events a year as well as breakfast briefings that are exclusive to members. There are also paid-for and ‘prestige events’ that claim to offer businesses with high-level networking.
- If you live in the North Simply Networking is another organiser that charges £10.50 an event and you can find local networking events.
- Meetup.com offers a plethora of event/meetups that you can attend and organise yourself. You don’t have to attend business specific events either, if there is a topic that interest you a meetup could be a great way to connect with people with similar interests and help you build towards a business relationship.
Use networking events as an opportunity to share your business interests. You may not meet the right partner/prospective co-founder straight away but you can build a network of people and eventually meet someone well suited through an associate.
In the words of Dragons' Den star and serial entrepreneur Sarah Willingham “it's important to surround yourself with brilliant people” if you want to create a successful business. Networking is a popular option to find a business partner.
If you can’t make it to events in person social media and forums are a great way to connect with like-minded business people. Twitter is fantastic for finding a chatting to people in the relevant industry. What’s more you’ll be able to find out about specific events by following relevant people and organisations. These conversations can start with the occasional ‘@’ but could eventually blossom into a fully-fledged business partnership.
Another fantastic source for B2B networking is Linkedin. You can search for people through contacts and ask for mutual contacts to introduce you. There are also groups for people in specific industries where you can form quality business relationships.
Online business forums could also give you the opportunity to speak to people in your field. Open to the public, you can use forums to find people who are genuinely interested in your idea/business.
Accelerator and incubator programmes
An accelerator programme could offer the opportunity to find a worthy business partner. The “boot-camp” style training programmes are very common in the tech industry and are focused on preparing fledgling entrepreneurs for the challenges of business life.
If you manage to get onto one of these programmes – though consider this carefully as many accelerators take an equity stake in return for membership – you will find yourself mixing with like-minded individuals; the perfect opportunity to pitch ideas and collaborate with potential partners.
Investors are primarily thought of as a source of cash for your business but their expertise and track record in business are, more often than not, just as valuable to a business.
If you’re a rookie, seeking out an investor who understands and believes in your vision could give you the direction you need to make your business a success and, if an investor feels you need a co-founder, will often put you in touch with relevant contacts in your industry and help you to forge new relationships.
You can meet investors at networking events, but you could also start online.
For angel investment, The Angel Investment Network has a large database of investors who are keen to help with every aspect of starting a business. Or for VC and private equity investors, take a look out our Investor Directory.
The benefits of having a business partner
Although having a co-founder is by no means essential, you may find that having a that another person may be a tremendous asset to your business. Business can be hard so having someone to go through the ups and downs would allow you to share problems and reduce stress.
Starting a business on your own can be a great lesson in entrepreneurship, but finding a partner gives you immediate access to another set of skills, experiences and ideas. After all, two heads are better than one, and nowhere is this truer then when brainstorming ideas.
A business partner can help you sort the good from the bad and offer their views and develop them. Plus, a business partner can offer you a different perspective on problems which will ultimately lead to more effective solutions.
The diverse mix of expertise could push your business further and help you to expand. What’s more a business partner comes with another set of contacts that can improve your business’ prospects and help gain higher profits in the long run.
Starting a business alone can be hard if you are struggling with finances. Chances are you’ll both be bringing some capital to the table, and if you do need a loan you could potentially secure more as you could each take out a separate loan.
What's more investors, particularly venture capitalists, are more likely to invest in your business if you have a co-founder. The reason for this being that conventional wisdom has shown that inexperienced entrepreneurs will be less of a risk if they have a partner who compliments their skill set. Investors understand that staring a business can be a challenge, and having a business partner is a great way to keep your spirits up and manage scaling a successful company.
However, don't let that discourage you from going it alone. There are many benefits to have a business partner , but there are also downsides. You have to share profits, are both equally liable for the business and choosing the wrong business partner could sink your business before it has even begun. Founder of florist marketplace Floom, Lana Elie, highlights that although there is somewhat of a taboo around sole traders, if you choose to go it alone you won't necessarily fail.