It's one of the most important decisions you'll make.
The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question: What’s the best way to keep your company successful? is written by Alastair Mitchell, president and cofounder of Huddle.
The most important thing you can do as a business leader is find the right team to help you run your company — cofounders, managers, directors, and business partners all play a critical role in how your company moves forward. There aren’t hard and fast rules for what makes a good business partner, but the people (or companies) you choose to work with can have a massive impact on the success of your business. The perfect business partner has the exact same values as you, but the exact opposite strengths. The difference between someone good and someone truly incredible can mean the difference between a team that works well together and a team that truly complements each other. It may seem like a small difference, but a team of people that complement each other can have a compounding effect on your business.
Yet the way we find business partners has shifted at a macro-level. Gone are the days of hiring random acquaintances or turning business decisions into personal favors. Partnerships aren’t transactions anymore — they’re about two parties with a mutual interest in strengthening one another. Understanding today’s partnerships as a two-way street is something I’ve thought about a lot as the cofounder of a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) company. SaaS has upended the way software is bought and sold. Instead of paying a lump sum for an on-premise software product, customers use SaaS offerings as living components of the businesses that continually evolve based on their feedback to better support their needs. Today’s business partnerships work the same way — they’re relationships developed from a consistent stream of communication that lets both parties deeply understand each other’s priorities and provide better support where it’s most needed.
When you’re seeking a new business partner, you’re looking for someone who shares your vision for the business, but excels in the areas you fall short. Identifying people with complementary approaches ensures every part of your company is supported–something that becomes especially critical when you’re planning for growth. To support this concept, here are four tips I’ve learned from cofounding a global technology company:
Know yourself first
Be painfully honest and work to identify your own strengths and values, so you can find partners that counterbalance your strong suits and advance your highest priorities.
Tap into your network
If there are people whose work or expertise you respect, reach out to them — it’s likely that they’ll deliver that same value to you. Deepening those personal connections early on can pay off later if they result in new partnerships. And contrary to popular belief, I suggest not relying on your gut — you need to truly understand the people you’re entrusting with the future of your business to ensure they’re the right fit.
Be open to new things
Deliberately pick partners that see things that might not be immediately obvious to you. Hear them out, even if their ideas seem strange to you at first. Those ideas might end up benefiting your business in a way you never thought was possible.
Communication is key
Work relationships are not unlike personal relationships — they require work. In the beginning you can sit around for hours discussing ideas, but over time this type of communication requires more work; especially when it comes to difficult conversations. But these conversations need to happen, they will foster the trust needed to keep you united through thick and thin.