There is power in numbers. It’s hard for one person to even grow his own food, let alone create any of life’s modern amenities–ever try to make a TV from scratch?. But put a few thousand humans together and we can create a spacecraft to travel 238,000 miles, stand on another planet and wave back to Earth. It is crazy what we can accomplish when we work together!
Even one person can make a world of difference. When two people get together and their mindsets compliment one another, watch out because they are going to be world changers.
Steve Wozniak was a true master of building computers, but he had no business acumen–he was just doing what he loved. When Steve Jobs saw the things Wozniak was capable of building he said “we could sell this”. The friends had complementary personalities and had a passion for what they do–these two together would go on to change the world and create the largest company that ever existed! Wozniak brought the computers and Jobs brought the business model.
Most of the partners did not have a ten step plan to start a company and change the world; they just had a common passion and complementary personalities. A lot entrepreneur partnerships don’t even have a specific goal, they just have a strong partnership. A lot of people find a friend/partner first, then they fall into a big idea and run with it!
Some people are too focused on the Big Idea that is going to change everything, but it is the people who will change everything. Why do you think innovative companies pay such high salaries for the best and the brightest? You put a few hundred highly intelligent and creative people in one company and the Big Ideas will flow from there! Even better if all the people get along and enjoy working there–work culture is becoming increasingly important.
Andrew and I decided to start On Our Way to Wealth to help motivate and educate people on how to live emotionally and fiscally wealthy lives, but it wasn’t our first idea. When we first started, we actually just sat down and said “there’s got to be more to life, so let’s do something more”. We had no plan at all! Just some hopes and dreams and a longing for a more rewarding career.
A Little Backstory:
I had graduated college and had been working at the same pharmaceutical company for 3 years. Halfway into the job, I became a bit obsessed with the world of finance–like I had missed my calling and studied the wrong subject in college. Dangit! I did not want to be a lab monkey for much longer, I wanted to move over to the world of business.
Andrew had just graduated from the #1 vet school in the country and started working as a Veterinarian earning a more-than-just respectable salary. But he still was working for someone else… He has always had a business mindset and a silver tongue–born to be an entrepreneur! He wanted to work for himself where he took on all the risk, but received all the reward. “Go big or go home” we frequently said to each other!
We had been best friends for a long time and we both loved challenges and adventures. Now we both had an additional passion for business. The transition from best friends to an entrepreneurial partnership happened quickly. “There’s got to be more than this!”
We just started by texting each other ideas for a start up. We had ideas for apps, restaurants, small businesses, and tech companies that could change entire industries. We created a Google Sheet listing every idea we had. Updating it for feasibility, startup costs, potential flaws or barriers, and the business models. We had hundreds. We just listed everything that came to mind. If you want to be an entrepreneur, it is good practice to keep the ideas flowing–a good one is bound to come up eventually.
Keep At It!
Out of the hundreds of ideas, a few kept sounding like really good ideas. So we stopped dreaming about them and started pursuing them. Sometimes you just have to pull the trigger. Better to do something wrong and learn from it, than to do nothing at all.
It is not about one great idea that will change the world. It took Apple a LOT of tries to finally find something to change the world–about 25 years to come up with the first iPod that would change the world. Granted they took a lot of good steps in the right direction, but it wasn’t until the iPod and iPhone that they really took off.
It is all about an effective partnership. One where you will not stop growing and challenging yourselves–even after a success, you both just keep going! First find an effective partnership, then success will fall into place if you keep at it and learn from any mistakes.
Fortune analyzed 101 startup failures and the reasons why they failed. You might be shocked that 66% of the reasons for failure involved their teams or partners! Reasons such as burn out, lack of passion, disharmony in team stood out as top reasons for failures. I think it’s safe to say that choosing the right partners for your startup is incredibly important to it’s success!
Key Elements of a Successful Entrepreneurial Partnership
Being good friends is not quite enough for a successful entrepreneurial partnership, make sure your partner passes theses quick tests if you want to give your company the best chance at success.
- Competitive – just enough so that you both want to work hard and produce your best. Not so competitive that your partner just wants to one up you and rub it in your face. Whenever Andrew gave an inspiring talk, it just made me want to be that inspiring as well. When Andrew would tell me all the ideas and work he had done during the week I would think to myself “Dang! He did all that?! Time to step up my game a bit, I know I could work a little harder!”
- Passionate – “The only way to do great work is to love what you do” -Steve Jobs. Your partner need to be as passionate as you! When you’re passionate about something, it does not feel like work when you’re brainstorming over the weekend or researching at 3am. If you both are passionate, you will keep each other going, instead of burning out all alone.
- Airport Test – if you can spend 10 hours stuck in an airport with this person and still have fun, you have found a winner. You should really like your partner since you will be spending a lot of time working with them very closely. 9-5 schedules don’t exist in startups and you could be seeing each other a lot more than 40 hours per week–you might need to burn the midnight oil before big presentations or to meet big deadlines. There have been weeks I have spent 100+ hours working every waking minute to get a rental filled or a workshop presentation/speech finished.
- Drive – Your partner needs to be motivated. Not recently motivated either. You want someone who has been motivated for a looong time. The last thing you want is to give someone 50% of your company, only to have them burn-out in 6 months and still own 50% of the company. You need someone who wants to be challenged and grow for life. If they just want to get rich and get out, do not partner with them! Another great way to prevent this is a good vesting schedule–meaning they have to work a few years to actually receive their equity in the company and if they just walk away they will lose any unvested equity.
- The Dishes Test – If you have a roommate who never does their dishes and you end up doing the dishes for them, do not partner with them! Ideally you want a person who will do their dishes and yours! But at the same time, you better be willing to do their dishes too. If you have to argue over who does the dishes, your company is doomed to fail. Period.
- Executor – Ideas are great, but effective execution is far more important to your small company. If your prospective partner just talks and ‘strategizes’ and never delivers results, run away! Better to do something wrong and learn from it, than to do nothing at all.
- Control Freak Test – You don’t want a partner who will try to micro-manage everything you do. Ideally each of you will divide up responsibilities based on your area of expertise and just run with it–no need to check the other person’s work constantly.
Most people focus too heavily on the idea or the product, when the partnership is even more important. You can have a killer product but have a terrible partner and the company will self-destruct. Starting a company is an intensely emotional and passionate undertaking. When you have so much emotion invested in something it can be easy to let emotions take over. A good partnership will minimize negative emotions and maximize the positive ones. A bad partnership will maximize negative emotions and lead to arguments and eventually the destruction of your company.
Before partnering with anyone in a startup company, make sure to do as much research on your partner as you can. Don’t just look at their work, but look at their personal habits:
- Do they nitpick at little things outside of work?
- Have they been working at the same level for years just maintaining the status quo? Or have they been motivated their entire lives and enjoy a challenge?
- Are they passionate in their free-time? Or are they a couch potato? I say a mix is OK.
- Do they do their dishes? Or leave them for a roommate or husband/wife to do instead? Deal. Breaker.
These may seem like absurd questions in a corporate environment, but they will tell you a lot about how working closely with them in a startup will be. Choosing the right partner could be the difference in creating the next Apple or creating the next failure that no one has ever heard of.