Choose Your Partners as Carefully as You Would Choose Your Parents

While sex appeal and lust-driven emotional responses likely played a large part in your being conceived, such responses need to be set aside when taking on a business partner. Maybe a sex partner can be a business partner, but the first determination in partnership is “What can you bring to the business that I cannot?”

If the answer is, “Nothing that I can see right now,” then your sex partner is best removed from consideration. In looking for partners or team members, you need to find people whose skill set is different from your own and have different life experiences. This is somewhat counterintuitive, as the default position would be to choose partners who came from the same cultural background, went to the same schools, were the same age, had similar life experiences, etc. It would appear that attracting like-minded individuals would make everyone more compatible and provide for a smoother-running organization. If you want to be in such an organization join a country club, but you need more diversity in your business associates and partners.

In today’s world-connected business environment, partners do not have to come from previous associates, although this is a relatively easy pool of candidates to tap, they can come from anywhere. It is desirable to be able to access those who operate in lower-costs labor markets and having a foreign-based partner can ease your transition from a strictly U.S. into a World-Wide market. This can also help you understand why a product designed for one market might be a failure when introduced to another part of the World? While it is true that we are a World-Wide interdependent manufacturing and business community; that does not mean that we are all the same.

Who do You Need for Partners?

• Director. Like it or not, this is you. At least for now it is. Although perhaps you feel more intellectually comfortable working strictly on the creative or design side of the business than telling people what to do, this is a necessary business function that must be filled. When you were by yourself it was easy to decide what product to produce, which marketing tactic to try next and what trade shows to attend. After the business has started and you begin to need help to grow it you are, by default the CEO until someone is found who you have sufficient confidence in to take over that position. Because of ego factors that day may never come. There are many who started their own businesses that became so emotionally invested in the business; that they could never sit back and let someone else run it – even when the business is in a death spiral.
• Creatives. Usually these people are associated with product design and advertising. These are the folks who produce your promotional materials on social media, print your brochures, design your ads and make your videos. These are people who may see new uses and markets for your products, suggest design improvements and help you investigate new markets. Harley Davidson is a typical company with a universally-known product that has now designed and produced an electric- powered motorbike that looks enough like and sounds enough like the traditional Harley to be immediately identifiable – yet is a forward-looking design.
• Marketing. Where, how and to what population groups to approach with new products can determine a company’s success or failure. A product release that is too early or too late and can have huge impacts on its success. Potential buyers can be turned off an entire product line if an expected release date is not met, and they might wait for years before a highly anticipated new product is released.
• Production. Whether it is an intellectual product, like a book, or a manufactured item, the best production methods must be decided on. “Best” these days is often considered to be the lowest costs, but the highest valued items are most often made in their countries of origin. Many businesses are now attempting to produce items that fall into a low cost, medium cost and higher cost categories that are usually referred to as “good, better and best,” to broaden their brand’s potential appeal. It is a business truism that someone, somewhere in the world will always undercut your lowest costs, and a race to the bottom in product pricing usually results in business failures. Never, ever, price a product below production costs. It is better to scrap a failed product and write off the loss than sell at low dollar because doing so devalues the entire product line.
• Distribution. Just-in-time delivery has become widely adopted in modern marketing. Stores plan their product displays on their shelves months in advance. If you are fortunate enough to secure a spot on a major retailer’s shelves, you had damn better meet the delivery date without fail.
• Accounting. Often for start-up companies the accounting functions are farmed out to firms who will handle your payroll and file your Federal and State paperwork, etc. Even though they might now be doing these functions, a person who delights in details, has a strong since of order and procedure, keeps track of OSHA regulations and generally keeps the company out of trouble is still needed. Others in the organization who are caught up in the details of meeting their responsibilities will be tempted to employ short-cuts, which may well be illegal. A person who fills this function might be a Lawyer or come from a variety of backgrounds, but he/she needs to have a very meticulous bend to his personality and the strength to point out a shortcoming, even though others in the company may object to his meddling in “their departments.”

Having defined the categories of people that I need, where do I find them?

If you are putting together a team then your search pool is very often restricted to present company employees. If it is a large-enough company perhaps team members might be recruited from other branches, departments or countries to add a diversity of opinions and approaches to your efforts. Certainly select some from your immediate surroundings, but actively solicit others that you have gotten good recommendations from other branches or divisions in your company.

If you are looking for partners in your own company, you are not under any such restrictions, and you have the entire world’s population for you to select from. One of the better ways to select is to do so from those presenting in trade shows or professional meetings. Even though some may be students, their approaches as demonstrated in their papers can be very useful in highlighting their areas of interests and provide a measure of their capabilities.

Self Growth with its hundreds of thousands of members and tens of thousands of experts can provides leads for potential partners at all levels of experience to potentially become part of your international partnership.

If you can look dispassionately at the qualifications of your close friends and family members and say that they fit the qualifications needed to participate in your business then they might also be considered. No one has a blood right to become a part of any business. Even in businesses that are largely family run, members must demonstrate their capabilities to do something the business needs to have done. The most successful incorporations of family members have resulted from the son or daughter of the founder getting professional qualifications, working for another company for a period of three to five years and then being invited to become a member of the family’s company. The most significant thing is that they must want to be involved. If they do not want to be involved or work with other family members, then they had best seek another career or perhaps even start their own firm.
Just because you are a Ford does not mean that you should run Ford Motor Company.

This and many more topics are covered in my most recent business book, Create Your Own Job Security: Plan to Start Your Own Business at Midlife. In this book I advocate starting a series of businesses throughout one’s life to raise cash as needed, train for future careers and ultimately discover a business of passion that can carry you throughout the remainder of your life. This book is available on, other on-line retailers and your local bookstore. I am also available to speak on business topics and have presented in the U.S., Europe and China.

Author's Bio: 

Wm. Hovey Smith is a registered Professional Geologist in Georgia. He is also a member of several writers’ organizations including the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA) and the Georgia Outdoor Writers Association (GOWA). He is the author of 18 books with his most recent title being “Create Your Own Job Security: Plan to Start Your Own Business at Midlife.” He has been a radio host and does public speaking on work and environmental topics with appearances in the U.S., Europe and China. He is an active blogger and the producer of over 725 YouTube videos on outdoor and business topics.