Business Partnership Advice for Young Entrepreneurs
At some point in your entrepreneurial journey, you may consider a partnership. Perhaps you already have a partner and the two of you are starting the journey together. Or you decide later that you need some help running your small business. Whatever your situation, a business partnership is more than just two people working together. Here’s some advice for setting up one of the most important relationships in your enterprise, as well as how to find the right person to partner up with.
AT THE START
You and your bestie have a great idea for a business. It’s more than an idea one of you came up with and the other simply said, “Sounds great!” This is an idea you’ve worked on together. You’ve bounced ideas off one another until you both said, “Aha!”
Before you take the first step on an entrepreneurial journey together, consider the following questions.
-> Do you share the same values? In other words, if one of you is only in it for the money and the other one doesn’t care about profit, this might not work out. You don’t need to be 100% on the same page about every little thing, but at least see if you have enough values in common to understand and respect what you both want.
-> Does everyone have the same expectations? Young entrepreneurship can be a rewarding experience that teaches you many important life skills. But it’s also a lot of work. The last thing you need is to start your partnership journey without knowing what to expect. Will one of you handle the business side and the other the creative side? What does that mean? What roles will each of you take?
-> How much can each of you commit? If your partner barely has time to sleep, much less run a business, that’s something you should know upfront. And when we say “commit,” we mean it. Similarly, if you know you’re more of a “shiny new project” type of person who gets bored easily once the newness wears off, your partner deserves to know.
-> How will decisions be made? Will you both have to agree on everything? Or will one of you take the lead and the other offer input and advice? What happens if you disagree?
-> What happens if things don’t work out? What if one of you has to quit? Does the other partner get to keep the business? At what point (if any) will you both decide that the business isn’t working out?
Open communication is key. When everyone knows what’s expected of them and everyone else, your partnership will run much more smoothly.
JOINING YOUR FRIEND’S STARTUP
Not all business partnerships start at the beginning. Let’s say your friend launched an enterprise and now comes to you for help. Should you jump in and join them?
Your answer to this question will depend on several factors:
- What stage of the startup are they in?
- What kind of help do they need?
- How much (or how little) work do they expect from you?
- What kind of work or time are you honestly willing to put into this?
- What happens if this turns out to be a bad idea?
It’s time to be honest. Don’t say yes to your friends just because they’re your friends. Tempting as that is, working together can test even the closest of friendships. But if you feel like this is a good fit, you can be quite successful together!
ASKING SOMEONE TO JOIN YOUR STARTUP
When you need help – and everyone needs help sometimes – consider seeking out a business partner. This might be a friend, relative, or total stranger. But first, decide exactly what you need and what you expect.
-> Do you need temporary help to get over a hurdle or face a particular challenge? Or do you need long-term help?
-> Can (or will) you pay, or share profits?
-> Do you want a partner – or an employee?
-> Do you work well with others?
-> Are you willing to listen and take constructive criticism?
The more you let a potential partner know what you need and expect, the greater the chance you’ll make a successful partnership.
HOW TO FIND A BUSINESS PARTNER
The obvious starting place to look for a business partner is among your peers. Your fellow young entrepreneurs are just as bright, energetic, and driven as you are. They have that entrepreneurial spirit that drives you to go above and beyond! So, where do you find them?
- Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA)
- Young entrepreneur online programs, like LaunchX
- School clubs
- Fellow interns or co-workers
Your circle of friends is also a good place to look for a business partner. You already share interests and hobbies. Why not a business? If one of you is acing AP English and the other is crushing AP Calculus, you are optimally set up to open a tutoring business together.
Families can work well together, too. You already know each other! But keep in mind that living together as siblings/cousins/whatever isn’t the same as working together. Can you set aside whatever is happening at home for the good of the company?
ONE LAST THING
Once you’ve found a potential business partner and you’re both ready to move forward, it’s worth drawing up a contract. This way you have all your expectations, roles, and contingencies written down. You’ve both signed it. You’re both committed to it. And you can always refer to it if needed.
The keys to a successful business partnership are clear expectations, communication, honesty, and commitment. Once you have those, you’re ready to take on the world of entrepreneurship together!
If you are a high school student in Florida with a passion for entrepreneurship, click here to find out more about the Kantner Foundation’s college scholarship program.