Megnut

Going into business with a partner

A List Apart has a new article by Kevin Potts called Starting a Business: Advice from the Trenches. There's a lot that goes in to starting a business, and Kevin's article does a good job of highlighting the issues one should consider when doing so. But there is one recommendation that is a very serious decision: that of going into business with a partner. Kevin writes:

If you can, start the business with a partner. This person should be another designer or programmer with a level of experience equal to or greater than your own, but with a different skill set.

He then explains the good things that can come from working with a partner, and there are many. But he doesn't give the decision the weight it deserves. Starting a business with a partner (or partners) is very different than starting one alone. The closest analogy I can come up with is that it's like marrying someone, and the business you build is your child. Now you'd never marry someone simply because they possess different skills than you do (she likes to cook, and I don't mind cleaning up, so I guess we're a match!). You marry someone who shares similar values and who shares similar goals. Choosing a business partner is a decision that should be undertaken with the gravity of any long-term commitment.

If you like to spend a lot of money and your partner doesn't, you're going to clash. If you want to grow the business and she wants to keep a small team, you'll fight. Your partner may want to do something you consider morally questionable, how will you resolve it? Add to the partnership the questions of equity and authority, never mind cash flow and the actual work you have to do for clients, and pretty quickly you can find yourself in one heck of a mess. The more work you can do upfront before starting the business to ensure you and your partner(s) are a good match, the greater the likelihood of success. Spend a lot of time talking about your hopes and dreams for the company, and discuss what you'll do when you don't agree about something, and how you'd handle things if the money ran out.

Starting a business is a great idea, and I encourage anyone who's interested to go for it. I never regret starting Pyra with Ev, it was an amazing experience, but it was also the most painful experience of my life. Diving into business with a partner is never something to be undertaken lightly. [via Anil]

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