You have a great idea for a business. You’ve tested it, sold a couple and now want to move onto the next level. Maybe you need some funding for manufacturing or marketing. Perhaps, a technical expert to help you cut costs, or maybe you’re even father along and want to find someone who can run more of the business-side of things while you concentrate on what you do best.
No matter your entrepreneurial situation, there will come a time when you discover that you can’t do it all alone. When you get to that juncture, you have one of two options: (1) Hire an employee, or (2) Find a partner. I’m not going to go into the pros and cons of partners vs. employees here, we’ll save that for another article, but let’s say for the sake of time that you’ve chosen to go the partner route.
The key to finding a business partner is to share your business idea with as many people as possible. You never know when someone has a brother-in-law or former colleague who’d make the perfect business partner for your business. Don’t be so concerned about someone stealing your idea. If your business really is so simple that someone can steal it from hearing the idea, some’s going to steal it eventually anyway. If you share your idea, you can get other people interested in it and excited, and they will want to help you along, even if that help is only to keep an eye out for other people that they can share the idea with.
There are dozens of great essays online about to look for in a partner (here, here, here and here are a few that I especially enjoyed) but how do you actually go about finding one. It’s not like you can just post an ad on eBay for one, right?
Finding a partner is all about networking. Whether online or off, the tactics are the same. Find someone who shares your dream and that you have chemistry with, and who’s skillets and abilities compliment instead of mirroring your own.
Below you’ll find a number of different options for networking for business partners along with some help and guidance to utilizing them correctly.
As social networking continues to grow in popularity, getting connected with other people has never been easier. There are more than 800 million active users on Facebook, and the average user is connected to 130 others. Chances are great that an old friend of colleague have an account and might want to chat about your business idea. LinkedIn is an even better option, because although it’s number of users is smaller, it is designed around the concept of business networking and it’s accepted and, in fact, encouraged to introduce yourself to your friend’s contacts.
MeetUp remains a great way to connect with others who are interested in the same topic as you. Although the service is web-based, the actual networking takes place offline in the real world. Very often you’ll get a chance to meet fellow entrepreneurs who are looking to start or grow their business. Just don’t immediately throw out: “I’m looking for a partner for my new business”. That’s like a single person walking into a bar and starting off a conversation with “I’m looking for a spouse.”
Dedicated partnership search sites work like dating sites, except that instead of finding your perfect romantic match, they attempt to connect you with the perfect business partner.
Offline networking groups like the Chamber of Commerce have existed for hundreds of years to lobby on behalf of small business interests and to give local business people a forum to interact and network with each other. The oldest Chamber in the United States is in New York City. It has been continuously operating since 1768.
Different business niches also have their own networking groups, and there might be a more specific one in your community to check out.
The most common place to find a business partner is within your current circle of friends, family and colleagues. The mom and pop business is also the most stereotypical type of small business. The trust that comes with working with someone you know on a personal level seems comforting.
The key to finding a business partner is connect with a variety of different people from different walks of life that have some, even if very small, connection to you. If you belong to a church or club or sporting team, you have a wide variety of potential connections to share your partner search with. Just remember to not start every conversation with “I’m looking for a partner!”
Where do you look for business partners?
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