Several weeks ago I had an opportunity to participate in a flash accelerator, which is similar to speed dating but with entrepreneurs and business consultants. Each session consisted of 30 minutes of 1-on-1 consulting, and it was an incredible experience. I had an opportunity to meet and hear from some excellent entrepreneurs and received some great questions about branding & business development. During my conversations, one of the most frequent statements I heard was, “I think I need a co-founder.” And my response to this every time was simply, “why?”.
I asked this question because there are many factors that should be taken into consideration before embarking on partnering with someone on a new or existing initiative. Trust me I get it, being a solopreneur is at times difficult. Having the presence of a like-minded, focused, and driven partner in your business could make this so much easier. Someone to bounce ideas off of, someone to share the responsibility of daily operations, someone who can add a skill or experience to the business that you currently do not have. This, in fact, could be life-changing, in more ways than one.
I’ve personally had these thoughts, and in previous endeavors, I’ve actively sought out someone to partner with on a new idea that I’ve had in mind. Moreover, I can say from experience that this is not always the best approach. Yes, having a partner can be of benefit. Yes, being a solopreneur while attempting to secure Angel or Venture funding is frowned upon and is often an eliminating factor when applying for acceptance into an incubator program, but where you find pro’s you can also find cons.
During my 12-year journey as an entrepreneur, I can honestly say that I’ve had great experiences with co-founders/partners in business, and I’ve also had horrible ones. I’ve had great co-founders, and I’ve had some that caused nothing but stress and heartburn. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that the same can be said for me especially early in my career because I was someone who approached things based on emotion 90 percent of the time and tact the remaining 10. Luckily we have the opportunity to see and learn from our mistakes, and those percentages are now reversed.
Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs find themselves working with co-founders who simply do not share the same thoughts, enthusiasm, or passion for the business. They find themselves having different mindsets in regards to timeliness, operational management, financial management, and so on. Creating a consistent wave of disagreements and frustrations, which ultimately lead to inconsistent business practices and stagnated growth which defeats the purpose of the partnership in the first place.
So in part one of The Entrepreneur Conundrum, Do I need a co-founder series, I want to kick things off by proposing that you ask yourself these two questions before deciding to approach a prospective business partner, (1) “Why do I need a co-founder?” and (2) “How well do I know myself?”
(1) “Why do I need a co-founder?”
Throughout modern history, we can associate some of the most iconic brands with a cofounding duo or group. If I say Apple, you think of Jobs and Wozniak. Google, Brin and Page. Microsoft, Gates and Allen. These successes, among others, have conditioned us to believe that achieving entrepreneurial greatness requires partnership. However, dependent upon your specific situation, is partnering the best option for you? Here are a few questions to ask yourself.
1a.) What skills do I lack that are essential to helping my business reach and exceed its potential?
1b.) Can I strengthen the areas I lack in by hiring a professional development coach? (E.g Sales Coach, Presentation Coach, Financial Coach, and so on)
Your answers to these two questions will assist in your decision on how to move forward with your choice.
(2) How well do I know myself
Not to get too deep or spiritual here, but how well do you really know yourself? Over the course of your adult life, how have your personal & professional relationships gone? What makes you tick? What personality types have you meshed with best? All of these questions should be asked when contemplating partnership because you have to understand yourself in order to effectively understand and interact with others.
I know this can be a daunting task, so I have a recommended free resource that will assist in helping you clarify your personality type and provide insight into what other personalities are a good match for you.
Enneagram Test: exploreyourtype.com
I encourage you to take this test, and also require those you consider partnering with to take it as well.
I recently took the test and found that I’m a type 5 “The Investigator”, which was surprisingly accurate, and also highlighted some traits I’d like to improve. I’m glad I took the test, and I know you will be too.
To gain a deeper insight into the meaning of your personality type after receiving your results, I recommend the free resource enneagraminstitute.com.
Partnering or co-founding a business with someone will have its pros and cons, just like anything else in life, but to make sure that you get the decision right you must start with yourself. Conducting a personal audit which begins with the questions why do I need a co-founder and how well do I do myself will kick off that process.
In Part 2 of The Entrepreneur Conundrum, Do I need a co-founder series we’ll discuss the five things to consider before selecting your co-founder, so stay tuned.