Never pick a business partner based on their skills alone
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 do you look for in the ideal business partner?” is by Pau Sabria co-founder of Olapic.
Luis Sanz, Jose de Cabo (my cofounders) and I met at Columbia Business School during the summer of 2008. Two years later we would embark on the entrepreneurial journey of our lives by co-founding Olapic. However, when we first started to create the business plan for Olapic, an article written by Guy Kawasaki more than 10 years ago kept coming to mind. It basically said that any startup with an MBA in its ranks should be penalized with a valuation $250,000 lower than if the founding team was all engineers. In other words, MBA’s hold very little value when starting a company. Even though Luis and I had studied engineering, I started to wonder if Olapic was off to a bad start: three MBA’s, all with management consulting backgrounds — were we doomed from the get-go?
It turned out, not at all. I quickly realized building a founding team based on skills alone is naïve because it presumes you’ve already figured out what skills you need. The reality is that more often than not, business ideas morph and evolve in a way that requires a shift in skills as well. So forget skills, and instead focus on building trust. How much you and your cofounders can rely on each other is what really make or breaks a team; it’s the glue that keeps everything together. We built trust through transparency. We knew everything about each other: our financial situations, our long-term goals and our work habits. By making sure our goals we’re aligned, we had confidence that we were all rowing in the same direction.
And through that trust, we created an environment where we could quickly determine strengths and weaknesses, and maximize the chance of the team’s (not individual) success. Little by little, this trust enabled me to focus on my own priorities, confident that Cabo and Luis would take care of the rest.
So, when people ask me how to find a cofounder or business partner (since they’re not yet available for Prime shipping on Amazon) I always fall back to the same answer: one who you can trust, one who has similar ambitions and one who puts the team’s goal ahead of their own.
Read all responses to the Leadership Insider question: What do you look for in the ideal business partner?
Dolby CMO: What Star Wars taught me about finding business partners by Bob Borchers, senior vice president and CMO at Dolby Laboratories.
The quickest way to sabotage your new business by Jim Yu, CEO of BrightEdge.
How to avoid picking the wrong business partner by Ryan Harwood, CEO of PureWow.
3 signs you need to ditch your business partner by William Craig, founder and president of WebpageFX.
The most important relationship you will make in your career by Nirav Tolia, CEO of Nextdoor.