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To Partner or Not to Partner

This is something that I have been dealing with for a while. I thought I would lay out my thoughts on business partners and see if it helps me figure anything out. I hope some comments will help too.

I would like to go into business with partners. I believe there is strength in numbers. My experience has shown me that you have to gather a lot of talent around you to succeed. If you try to do anything on your own, you will fail. I have to depend on others for ideas and inspiration as well as accountability. I also need others to fill gaps in my knowledge base. I’m an operations person, so I don’t understand marketing and sales and taxes and such.
Knowing that I need these things to be successful, I come to the conclusion of business partners. But is that the only conclusion? I also have experience that demonstrated the risk of business partners. They don’t always have the same goals, they hide and steal things, they write you out of own company. There are an equal number of reasons why I should not partner with anyone as there are for why I need to partner.

I recently met with a SCORE counselor (www.score.org). He said business partners are great, but never do them in 2s. If you have to partner, partner with 3 people and always keep the controlling vote. He expanded on this by saying that you want to really find out what people want before you partner with them. Do they just want to be financial backers but not run anything? Or do they want to run operations for a company they are invested in? You have to find what that partner wants and check to see if what they want is something that you want. If they match, you should have a good partnership. If the people want different things, it will not work.
That seemed like sound advice to me. It is also a little intimidating. That means if I am going to make this work, it has to be because of me (revolutionary concept, I know). I have two options: build it from the ground up and bring minority partners on, or become a minority partner in someone else’s venture. To be honest, right now I’m considering being a minority partner in someone else’s venture. I know what I’m good at and what I’m not. I don’t know if I have enough knowledge at this point (or even in the near future) to start my own place. Most restaurants close after the first year. I believe it’s because the people who started it didn’t know what they were doing. I don’t want to be that guy.

Short story from “Uncommon Grounds” by Mark Pendergrast: Pete’s Coffee in San Francisco actually helped start Starbucks. The original 3 guys (see the partners of 3 again!) of Starbucks spoke with Pete and he helped them get started. It is not uncommon for industry people to give birth to new companies. The three original guys of Starbucks owed everything to Pete’s Coffee to the point that one of them sold Starbucks to Schultz so he could purchase Pete’s Coffee when it went for sale, because that is where is heart was.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with entering into a venture with someone else to gain knowledge with the hopes of opening my own place. I would not damage or hinder the company I worked for, but push it hard to gain everything I could. I think that this is how I want to proceed at first.
Anyone interested in a partner?

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