Is It Time to Bring on a Business Partner?

How do you know when it is time to bring on a business partner? I just brought on an executive leadership partner, and am so excited for the great opportunities this will bring to AGI. My new partner, Lou Partenza, brings amazing business expertise, new business development experience, and will help me expand the capabilities of AGI and take it to the next level.

Until Lou came aboard, I was spread pretty thin, which was preventing me from growing the business the way I envisioned. We all have our capacity limits and I was reaching mine. I have an amazing team, but I was carrying too much of the load myself. The sheer volume of accounts and potential new business demanded I bring another executive-level person into the fold. I brought in Lou as my partner, and by doing so I immediately increased my company’s capacity.

Define Business Partner Needs

Besides increasing capacity, there are other very good reasons to consider bringing in a partner. Maybe you want to enter a new geographic market or start selling in a new community with a culture and/or language barrier. The long-term goals of your company should weigh heavily in your decision to bring in a partner and the type of partner you seek.

The first step is to decide what role you want the partner to play. Do you need someone for an executive leadership role for business guidance, or do you need someone with a total focus on new business development?

Based on the desired role, define the skill set for this person. The search process should be similar to bringing on a full-time employee. You want to look for a partner that has a set of complementary skills—skills that you may not have but really need in your business. The difference between a partner and employee is your partner will be someone who will assist you in making key decisions for the company, so they should be someone with whom you really mesh. You need to be able to bounce ideas around and have equal amounts of commitment to growing the company.

Define Success

Once you identify your potential partner, be careful to clearly define the role that you want them to fill, and define success metrics and expectations around that role.

Finding the right partner isn’t something that happens overnight. My advice is to start looking passively now. Even if you aren’t sure you need a partner (or a full-time employee for that matter) you should be in a constant state of recruitment. Great talent—especially at the partner level—is not easy to find. Talk, ask around and always be looking for great talent for key areas of your company.

Don’t Rush Into a Business Partnership

One caution: don’t make the mistake of bringing on a business partner too soon. Make sure you are eating well before you bring someone in. It takes energy and money to bring someone in as a partner. It’s important to be able to recognize where you are in your company’s evolution and know that you are financially stable before you commit to that extra executive salary.

Howard Shore is an executive leadership coach who works with companies that need leadership development and business management coaching. Based in Miami, Florida, Howard’s firm, Activate Group, Inc. provides strategic planning and management coaching to businesses across the country. To learn more about executive leadership coaching through AGI, please contact Howard at 305.722.7213 or email him.