You need a team to succeed in business. Every great team starts with the right business partners. Perhaps more than anything, who you select as your co-founder will determine whether your startup fails or succeeds.
Finding a co-founder is difficult, but finding the ideal co-founder is what separates wantrepreneurs from entrepreneurs.
If you want your startup to succeed, you will select your co-founder on the following criteria:
#1 – Find someone who had success before.
There are so many questions you could ask a potential startup partner to see if it’s the right fit. But the absolute best question is:
Have you built a successful business before?
It is hard to argue with success. I am sorry for coming through here with brutal honesty, but an entrepreneur that had built a successful business once is a lot more likely to succeed the second time than a newbie.
I know it’s easier to partner with your best friend, your college buddy, or someone you have been working with for a while. The bad news is that none of them will help you succeed more than someone that has a proven record of success.
You have to ask yourself.
Do I want to be comfortable or do I want to maximize my chance for success?
If you really care about succeeding, you will fight to partner with a proven winner.
There are thousands of successful entrepreneurs you could partner with; they are out there. If you have the right idea, they might just partner with you. But, you are going to have to fight for it.
Because you are dealing with someone that’s been there before, don’t expect him or her to fall in love with your idea.
If you are dealing with the ideal person, he will want you to be prepared. He will be a lot less interested how passionate you are and a lot more interested learning how prepared you are.
You can get your potential co-founder’s attention by being prepared.
Be ready to answer some hard questions like:
- What makes you the person who will succeed with this startup? – Be ready to talk about what lead you up to this point. What past experience do you have that will help you succeed? Why you?
- Do you have any data to show the viability of your startup? – If all you have is a hunch, you are wasting everybody’s time. Show your research. Treat this opportunity as you would presenting to angels or VCs. Forget about fluff, you must show some real numbers here.
- What makes you superior to your competition? – And, yes, you do have competition. If you think you don’t, you are not prepared.
#2 – Partner with someone who makes you a better entrepreneur.
Many startup founders want to partner with someone who will make them feel good.
What a waste of time.
Your co-founder is not your mother, brother, girlfriend or shrink. If you are lucky, your co-founder will challenge you in ways you never thought was possible.
If you are lucky, you will sweat, cry and claw your way to success.
There will be little focus on feeling good with a huge emphasis on building a business that outcompetes anyone who is dumb enough to try.
If you understand the rate of startup failures, you know that it will be almost impossible to succeed.
If you do succeed, it will take some herculean effort. Feeling good might not be part of that picture.
Here are some tell tale signs that you found the ideal co-founder:
- You never quite feel like you are smart enough.
- You feel like the weakest link, even your best is not as good as you hoped it would be.
- He or she is hungrier for success than you.
- Your co-founder completes task within deadlines.
If you want your startup to make it, partner for success instead of comfort and you might just beat the odds.
Look for the following business partner factors and attributes:
- Chemistry – Just like in love, you need chemistry in business too. You might not be able to explain it, but if your gut tells you that this isn’t the right business partner you should walk away.
- Goals – Your goal might be to work as hard for as long as it takes to succeed. But, what if your business partner is more interested in leaving the office by 5:00 pm every day? If you don’t share goals you are less likely to succeed.
- Skills – The best business partners have complementary skills. If you are a great coder, but your business also needs sales expertise try to find someone with sales skills.
- Trust – If you don’t trust each other completely, you should not go into business together. It’s that simple.
- Communication – Do you understand each other? You need a partner you can quickly and efficiently communicate important news or decisions.
- Commitment – Can you make a commitment to each other and your business plan?
- Execution – It is one thing to talk about goals, but are you going to be able to execute? Most companies fail, not because of lack of ideas, but poor execution.
- Decision Making – Successful entrepreneurs have to make hundreds of decisions to reach even simple business goals.
Discuss in the comments below what you are looking for in a business partner or co-founder.