The power of business partnership is amazing. It’s a highly effective business model more African entrepreneurs should consider.
Six months ago, I had a brilliant idea to develop a new food product that could be very successful if I can bring it to the market. It was one of those possessive ideas that made me lose sleep for days.
I couldn’t sleep because I was excited and afraid. I was excited because I had stumbled on an amazing business idea, but I was also afraid because I wasn’t sure how to make the product and bring it to market.
The other more serious reason I was afraid was capital; I didn’t have enough capital and resources to transform this brilliant idea into a lucrative business.
What could I do to make this dream come true?
After considering several options, I finally decided to find a good business partner to work with me on the business.
Today, I am very happy to let you know that my business idea is gradually inching towards reality. In fact, I can totally admit that this business idea could have died and been forgotten if I didn’t find a good person to partner with.
In this article, I’ll share five reasons why, in my experience, you need a business partner and the things you must look out for before you partner with anyone in business.
5 Reasons Why You Need A Business Partner
When entrepreneurs have brilliant business ideas, our natural instinct is to tell ourselves that we can do it alone. We want to become the hero, the ‘self-made’ successful entrepreneur.
What we often do not realize is that the journey to success in the land of business can be tough, ruthless and very challenging.
To increase your chance of survival and success, it’s often a great idea to find a good person to share this journey with you. I have had a couple of business partners and have gained some knowledge and experience in working with the right partners to get what you want.
Here are my top five reasons why I think you need a business partner:
1. Access to more capital resources
Inadequate capital is a common threat that faces African entrepreneurs every day. It is also the single biggest reason why many people will never start a business in their lifetime.
Although access to startup capital is a challenge for entrepreneurs across the world, I think it’s a much more serious problem in Africa.
Banks make it difficult for small businesses to access loans, and finding investors to support a new business idea is often a wild goose chase.
Unlike a bank that would ask for collateral and demand high interest rates, a business partner can contribute capital on far more favourable terms.
Rather than get a bank loan (which would have been very difficult, if not impossible), I provided some of the capital while my business partner contributed the rest. As a result, we shared the risk of the business between ourselves, which is much better than one person bearing the full financial risk.
If I didn’t have a partner to contribute some of the capital, it’s very likely that my brilliant business idea would still be locked up in my head by now. But by sharing my idea with the right person, I attracted the extra capital I needed to make the business take off!
On a continent where access to capital is poor, African entrepreneurs can find the capital they need to make their business ideas come alive by joining capital with other people. Compared to other sources of capital (such as banks, investors etc.), business partnerships are an easy, convenient and low-risk source of startup capital.
2. Diversity of ideas, perspectives and opinions
“Two (good) heads are always better than one.” That was a common expression from one of my school teachers who always reminded me of the value of cooperating with other people and working together as a team.
From my experience in business partnerships, my teacher’s statement is completely true. Two good heads are many times better than one!
I know this because when I first discussed my idea with my business partner, it was like refining gold. We brainstormed, analysed, debated and argued on different aspects of the business idea and how and why it would work.
We both had different perspectives and opinions of the idea and this diversity helped us to make the idea better and stronger. It was a great experience.
Do you know what ‘tunnel vision’ is? It’s a disability that affects entrepreneurs who come up with brilliant business ideas.
Tunnel vision is a close-minded way of thinking that makes you see only the favourable things you want to see. While this may sound good, it’s actually dangerous when you’re working with business ideas. What seems great and profitable may not turn out to be that way.
That’s why you need another ‘eye’ who can objectively look at your business idea and bring to your attention those things you missed out or were too excited to think about. This is exactly what a good business partner will do for you.
The benefits of a diversity of ideas, perspectives and opinions shouldn’t stop at the ‘idea stage’ of your business. It will also help your business as it grows and encounters new challenges, problems and opportunties.
This is exactly one of the greatest gifts I enjoy from business partnerships. I have found that better decisions and solutions are made when two or more ‘good heads’ come together to do business.
3. Do more with your time.
Have you ever been in two places at the same time?
No, I’m not talking about horror movies or ghosts. I actually did it last week.
I had already fixed a doctor’s appointment when the technician who we’re considering to build the machines for our new business called for an important meeting at the same time I was supposed to be with the doctor.
If I was in this business alone, I would have had to suffer the inconvenience and pressure of losing one of these appointments.
Fortunately, my business partner took care of the technician while I kept my date with the doctor!
Yes, a business partnership allows you to do more things with your time and helps to reduce the pressure and stress of doing everything by yourself.
When you’re not available to take care of business, it’s good to know that there’s somebody you can count on to cover for you. It works just like insurance.
My business partner got married last month and on that same day, we had to supervise work at the farm site. Guess who made sure everything went well at the site? Me!
I showed up early at the site, made sure everything went well and drove back just in time before the wedding reception started. The business did not suffer any delays because of the wedding. That’s one of the sweet benefits of business partnerships!
4. Everyone needs some emotional support
The journey to success in business is usually full of highs and lows, ups and downs, wins and losses, successes and failures.
If you’re not strong enough to withstand the shocks and disasters that come with business, you may become discouraged and ultimately give up. While some entrepreneurs can withstand these shocks on their own, many of us need some measure of emotional support.
Before we found the technician we’re using to build the machines, we tried for several weeks to find one but failed. I remember one Saturday afternoon; we walked for several hours under the rain, looking for a technician who had skills and experience in building the machine we wanted.
Wet, sad and discouraged, this event made me to gradually lose faith in the business idea. I’m sure if I were in the business alone, my idea would have died a slow but certain death due to that frustrating experience.
Fortunately, my business partner remained positive and kept the idea alive. After a few more weeks of searching, he finally found a good technician and I couldn’t be happier with the guy he found.
Our business moved many steps closer to reality because my partner provided emotional support and helped to keep hope alive. Who knows what could have happened if I stood alone after that discouraging Saturday event.
5. Access to a wider network of contacts
Starting up a business is about getting things done. Raising capital, finding a good office location, buying the right equipment and hiring employees are just a few of the important things on every entrepreneur’s mind.
If you don’t know where to look or find help, getting these things done can be very challenging and may be the difference between a business that successfully takes off and one that doesn’t.
Nobody knows everything. That’s why it’s always good to interact and work with other people who may have answers to our problems.
You never know, you may find a solution to your challenges through someone who knows someone. Like they say, it’s a small world we live in.
While brainstorming on our business idea, we needed to get information on a company that produces a similar product to the one we were working on.
I didn’t know how to get this crucial piece of information and didn’t know anybody who could. Guess what? My partner made one phone call and after two minutes of conversation, he had fixed an appointment through one of his contacts to meet with somebody who works in the company. This could have cost me time, money and effort if I had to do it alone.
In my experience, a good business partner will give you access to a wider network beyond your own personal contacts. This can prove to be a huge and very valuable asset!
How can you identify a good partner? Here are some tips!
Don’t be fooled, not all business partnerships work out well. Many businesses have crashed because entrepreneur worked with the wrong partner.
In fact, many people who have suffered these bitter breakups will often warn others to keep away from business partnerships. I can’t say they’re wrong. Afterall, partnerships are like a burning fire, if you don’t choose and use it wisely, it could burn you.
In my experience, here are a few features every good business partner must have. These features will guide you to find the right business partner to work with you:
#1 He/She should share the same goals and values with you
Not everyone has the spirit and gift of entrepreneurship. Not everyone dreams of leaving their day jobone day to focus on their own business.
There’s no point joining forces with a partner who doesn’t take the business as seriously as you do. If a person does not share similar dreams, passions and goals about the business, there’s a high chance the business partnership would never work.
If they’re not as dedicated and committed to the business like you, you may end up doing all the work. They’ll be a deadweight on your business and may become a negative force that works against you.
You need partner(s) who are motivated and ready to passionately work on the business with you under every condition.
#2 He/She must bring something valuable to the table
Business is not a hobby; it’s a serious endeavour. Don’t bring anybody on board as a partner because she’s a close friend or member of your family. You’ll be looking for trouble if you base a business partnership on sentiments instead of skills, knowledge and capabilities.
A good business partner always contributes something that adds value to the business. It could be technical or business skills, capital, connections, time and effort, equipment etc.
The bottomline is to ensure he/she brings something valuable to the table!
#3 You must be compatible with each other
A business partnership is a relationship between two or more people. And in every human relationship, the personalities of the persons involved are very important.
You should partner with somebody you feel comfortable with; you just have to get along with your partner(s).
If you feel intimidated, silenced or frustrated by his/her personality, it could be a warning sign.
In all partnerships, there are times of argument and disagreement. It’s in your best interest to work with a partner who is willing to listen and consider your own views and vice-versa.
Business partnerships are a ‘give-and-take’ relationship. Stubborn egos, on one extreme, and total submissiveness on the other, can be counterproductive.
Like in a marriage – age, gender, race and religion don’t matter as long as the parties involved are compatible and understand each other well.
4 You both must align your expectations from the business
One of the common reasons why some business partnerships don’t work is because the parties involved have different expectations from the business.
From the beginning of the partnership, it should be clear what each person would own, do and get from the business. Most people skip this important step because they think it’s not important or are just uncomfortable with it. Don’t make this terrible mistake!
Do your best to make this as detailed as possible. When everyone knows what to expect from the business, there is less likelihood for suspicion, conflict or blame later on.
I have seen sour business partnerships that ruined lifelong friendships and relationships because one party had different expectations from the business which they ‘assumed’ was shared by everyone.
Avoid the risk of assumptions by making everything clear beforehand. It may be uncomfortable at first but it always helps!
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