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A business partnership is an entirely different ballgame than going solo, and it has its own set of unique challenges and considerations. One of those is finding the right partner. Choosing a co-founder for your business is not an easy task, and shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s okay to be excited about getting your business started, but it’s not something to rush. Remember, this is your livelihood.
Once you’re sure your startup idea will work, consider the following traits that you should look for when selecting a co-founder.
1. Complementary strengths
Like any relationship, you’re at your best when each person brings something to the table that complements and supports the other. Your strengths complement his — or her — weaknesses, and vice versa.
Recognizing your strengths makes it easy to define your roles in the partnership, and that definition makes it easier to hold one another accountable as the business grows. When you run into difficulties in making a decision, it’s nice to have someone who can see things from a fresh perspective. You’ll challenge each other to consider things you wouldn’t normally see on your own.
“I met my co-founder, Thomas Griffin, using the approach of ‘one builds, one sells,’” says Syed Balkhi, founder of OptinMonster. “This means that one of the co-founders is responsible for building the product, while the other sells the product. This complementary approach is a perfect model for many startups.”
2. A thirst for knowledge
A perfect co-founder is one who recognizes that he or she has a lot more to learn. This recognition that the individual doesn’t have it all figured out, coupled with a willingness to learn, will greatly contribute to growth in the right direction.
The concept of constant improvement is a strong value to have.The people best suited for startup life are the ones ready to learn more and take the business beyond what either thought was possible.
3. Shared passion
A co-founder who brings a financial investment is terrific — and might be the one thing you need to get a startup off the ground. But, even more important — and hard to find — is a co-founder who recognizes your drive, mission and passion, and shares it.
You’re starting a business for a reason, and uniting over a common interest is a typical way for two founders to come together.
That’s what brought together Gary Lambert Jr. and Zack Carpenter, the founders of Cyclops Vapor, an eliquid manufacturer. Driven by the desire to produce a quality product that made it easier for people to stop smoking, the two shared a common passion that propelled their company to the top in their industry. As Carpenter says, “We enjoy what we do here. It’s not just about the profits. We have the ability to help people, and it’s pretty awesome.”
“More than likely, your co-founder will be a person with whom you’ve had shared experiences,“ says entrepreneurship and Entrepreneur.com contributor Neil Patel. “Through such experiences, ‘true motivations are revealed, not declared.’ In other words, you know each other in more than just a superficial way.”
Before you jump into business with someone else, make sure the person you’re working with is committed to the same core values. It’s costly to give up a percentage of your company to someone who quickly loses interest.
Having a business partner who is able to think on his feet and adapt to changing situations is critical. In any new business, you’re likely to encounter a fair number of surprises, so find someone who won’t sweat the small stuff and can be flexible when the going gets rough and tough decisions need to be made.
You also want to find a co-founder who isn’t above handling the small tasks that need to be dealt with. This person should have the drive to push the company forward, but the humility to know that sometimes there’ll be a need to answer phones and empty garbage cans — and to smile while doing those tasks.
5. Serious energy
You might think you’ve got enough energy for the team, but you always want to be backed up by someone that has at least as much, if not more, than you. Starting a business is hard work, and it’s not for the faint of heart.
Growth, scaling and survival will eat at your energy stores. When you’re all but tapped out and running on fumes, you want a co-founder with energy to spare who can pick you up and get you motivated to keep running.
6. Integrity and honesty
When you’re involved at the ownership level, there are so many ways for money to disappear and for people to be dishonest. Even beyond cash, there are things a person can do that might call the ethics and morals of a company into question. Those things don’t have to be illegal to permanently damage your business, either.
Find someone who is honest. Communicate up-front that there is an expectation for 100 percent honesty at all times — no exceptions. Remember, finding the right partner isn’t just about skills: It’s also about character.
7. Emotional stability
Emotional stability involves the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. Every owner needs to be able to maintain her cool in the face of the rough times that are common in the startup environment. Getting angry with vendors and customers or falling apart under the weight of stress is detrimental to business. Such habits can destroy relationships and send employees running.
Having success as a startup relies on an owner’s ability to stay calm and not collapse under pressure.
Also make sure you find someone that you get along with outside of work, because building your business will be an around-the-clock endeavor. Find someone you trust, who will take the pitfalls in stride and grow with you. The true measure of a person is not how he or she behaves when things are going well, but when things are going badly.
What qualities do you think are most important in a co-founder or business partner?