But whichever route is taken, the fact remains that every founder and every business needs to work with external partners. Some of these partners will be project or task related, whilst others will be longer term and become more integral in the long term future business.
Getting the right partner for every situation is crucial because if you get it wrong then the consequences vary from wasting time and money, to hampering the growth of the business and potentially much more. There are of course slightly different rules for finding the best partners depending upon if they are short term, project based partners or, much longer term, more integral partners.
So, what are the top tips to getting the right partners, whether they are short term or long term ones?
- Use recommendations – Perhaps the easiest, most important, and most obvious tip is to use personal recommendations and contacts. If someone that you trust and respect their judgement makes a recommendation or personal introduction, then this should rightfully carry more weight than a ‘cold’ name obtained from a random source.
- Project Cost – For shorter term or project based partners then cost is perhaps more crucial than it is for long term partners as long as you feel that the partner is able to deliver the desired service to the level expected in the time required.
- Added skills – It should go without saying that in the majority of cases external relationships, short or long term, are sought as they plug a skills or knowledge deficiency that you as a founder has, or indeed can be found in-house. What is sometimes not understood though, is that as a founder, or partner, in an early stage business, your focus should be on growing that business and guiding the business as a whole. As such you will not have time to do many of the roles that you are actually capable of, and so sometimes it is important to get in the right partners not just to fill a skills gap but also to fill a time gap.
- Relationship and shared values – For shorter term partners this is less relevant than for long term partners. You do not need to personally know, or indeed like, your accountant or lawyer in order to get the accounts or contract finalised. However, for long term partners this is very important, as in order to develop a proper working relationship there should be a much higher level of personal trust and respect.
- Added value – With any partner try to look through just the obvious contractual requirements and see what added value they bring. That is, wider expertise or knowledge, good and diversified contacts, and other similar assets that you will then also be able to access This added value is especially important in longer term relationships and should often be seen as the most important differentiator rather than whatever the direct cost might be.
- Leverage – As a young business you need skills from experienced and more senior partners to help you as the founder, but you simply cannot afford to engage them on a full time basis. Working with external partners is an excellent way to achieve this by simply paying an agreed monthly retainer or daily or hourly rate for when you need assistance. This gives you all the access required but at greatly reduced costs.
- Advisory Board – Having an Advisory Board is recommended for any business as it helps keep the founders or directors accountable, as well as on target and focused, whilst at the same time they are able to offer advice, assistance, and contacts. All of this increases the chances of success of the business. It is precisely for these reasons that investors feel much more comfortable and like to see an Advisory Board in place.
It can clearly be seen that getting the right short term partner is important, but getting the right long term partner can, quite literally, help to make or break your business.