The Other Steve
With the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6+ out–with a new watch to follow in 2015–I wasn’t surprised to see the enthusiasm for the iPhone has waned. It has almost become a joke (see The Oninon’s piece). But I also couldn’t stop thinking about how Apple came to where it is today. We all know about Steve Jobs as a pioneer, but few people know that Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs CO-founded Apple Computer in 1976. Steve Wozniak brought something to the table: hard skill. Founders at Work writes “Between Wozniak’s technical ability and Jobs’s mesmerizing energy, they were a powerful team.” Is there someone you can partner with to be a more powerful team?
Soft Skills and Hard Skills
You might think that having a strong background in the industry that you’re planning to enter is essential. Not necessarily. If you can find a partner with the background you lack, you may be more prepared than you realize.
I started a home improvement company without knowing the difference between a flathead and a Phillips screwdriver. Because I lacked industry expertise, I brought on a partner with twenty years of experience in the business. It would lead to 3 divisions and millions in revenue. His industry background and my marketing skills were the perfect complement of talents needed to succeed with this new business. This also includes the “soft” skills of business, like personality. For example, “An optimist needs a pessimist to temper the rose-colored glasses with reality. And a shy person needs someone more outgoing to handle the ‘people’ part of running a business,” according to Rieva Lesonsky, CEO and President of GrowBiz Media.
You need to learn the business in your own right, and your partner, however experienced, won’t have all the answers. Make sure your partnership agreement clarifies how business decisions are to be made. In the end, a partnership is a mutual learning experience.
Partnerships Must be Solid
Going into a business partnership is very similar to a marriage. In fact, you will spend more time talking to and being around this person than your spouse, in the beginning. You need to know what buttons set each other off. For instance, I had a partner who did not have a college education and anything that implied he was not smart would set him off. I was always careful to never imply I was smarter just because I went to college. He was a great guy who taught me a lot about the industry we were in, but like everybody, he had things that set him off.
Treat the partnership agreement like a “pre-nup.” Negotiate what the buyout would be well before you start this business. I recommend if either partner decides to leave the business on his/ her own in the first three years, that partner receive nothing more than the money they put in. This money should also be returned with favorable terms to the existing partner, as you don’t want to get hit with owning a large sum of money out of the blue. I have had to buy partners out with very little notice and it has crippled me financially.