TNL International Edition is sponsored by Tutor A B C
At the beginning of last year’s popular Stanford class, “How to Start a Startup” (CS183B), the four most important areas of starting your own business were pointed out to be Idea, Product, Team and Execution. To explain it in one sentence: a good team that perfectly executes a good idea will successfully deliver a great product. Since the team is a crucial element, it is obviously a very important key in starting your own business. We will be talking about this subject some more in this article.
For those who are starting a business, what kind of partner can really be regarded as suitable? Or, if you want to become a successful business partner, what kind of special qualities do you need to possess? I read many articles regarding this subject and sorted out approximately six distinguishing features. Generally speaking, if you possess two or more of these features, you are most likely a suitable business partner.
1. Unlimited amounts of money
Starting a startup is about spending money. Whether it’s the rent of the office, product development, production, delivery, storage, machinery, personnel management or marketing, you need to spend money. According to research, the vast majority of people who have started their own business run into a lack of financial resources from time to time. Of course, there are certain low-cost, even no-cost models, for starting a business. But no matter what, having money can always make things much simpler.
If your partner has too much money to spend, is willing to invest in your startup and does not claim a disproportionate amount of stock, then I honestly cannot think of a more suitable partner.
2. Hard-working, remorseless and able to handle criticism
No matter how much you romanticize starting your own business, the real deal is often a hot mess. During the process, there will be a lot of annoying, difficult and chaotic matters that need to be dealt with. In the beginning of the startup you will often be understaffed and most of the time the boss (the founder) needs to take matters into his or her own hands. There is a saying that goes like this, “You always get your hands dirty when starting a business.” People also joke that a new job opening has emerged recently and applicants must excel in matters ranging from corporate-level to entry-level, costumer service, XX (fill in any job you want), oh yes, and also mopping the floors.
A partner that can handle criticism and setbacks, and works tirelessly without complaining, whether it is moving heavy furniture, cleaning the toilets, taking out the trash, cleaning up kitchen waste, killing cockroaches, sending memos, networking, reminding clients of payment deadlines or dealing with difficult manufacturers; someone who’s willing to deal with all these frustrating details. Is this not the partner you want?
3. An inexhaustible source of ideas and suggestions
The road of starting a business is a lonely one. From now on, there is no boss above you, no coworkers beside you, you must do and figure out everything by yourself. How to break your industry’s bottleneck? How to improve sales numbers? What is the most effective way to sell your product? How to deal with problems in production? Every day you have to deal with unfinished business, solve unresolved issues and face a lack of ideas and inspiration.
If your partner has an inexhaustible amount of ideas and suggestions, is never baffled by any problem, always comes up with better, fresher, more exciting and effective ways to solve an issue; someone who makes you no longer waste any effort on unsolvable problems or petty issues, someone who broadens your horizon, then he or she is a great partner. Don’t you think so?
4. Reliability and thoroughness
When starting a business, just having ideas is not enough. The crux of success or failure often lies in the ability to execute an idea. If you are starting a business with a partner, you always need to divide the work between you and your partner. Perhaps you are in charge of research and development while your partner handles sales; maybe you will handle planning and your partner deals with execution or you might mop the floors while your partner throws out the trash.
Remember this: never underestimate the result of a good execution of ostensibly insignificant matters. Take throwing out the garbage for example. If recycling is not done properly, the amount of money you spend on garbage bags will increase and you might even be fined; if the trash stands too long it will attract bugs and the smell isn’t nice either.
Or when you’ve been on the streets for an entire day, but only handed out ten flyers; or there’s a typo, a misplaced graph or a wrong hyperlink in an online sales report. If your partner has poor execution abilities and he or she can only get things halfway done, it will result in low efficiency and a product of bad quality. You are simply kidding yourself if you want to start a business with a partner like that. A partner that is capable of good execution, reliable and delivers on promises has an enormous amount of influence on the success of your startup.
Like I mentioned before, starting your own business is a lonely road. Business partners often have to rely on each other and work together in order to pursue a successful startup. In the process, a lot of work needs to be delegated and many problems need to be discussed. Therefore what requires the most time and effort might just be communication. Everything related to work must be communicated; from the idea to the goals and targets, task delegation, recourse allocation, profit distribution and so on. Many studies on management point out that good internal communication is one of the key elements for a company’s competitiveness.
Since communication is this important and requires considerable time and effort, a partner that can read your mind and knows what you are thinking without a word saves huge costs in communication. When your resources are limited, saving money means earning money. Clearly a partner who understands you is very important.
6. A large social network
After reading the first five features, you might be thinking to yourself, “So if I have no money, am not an endless source of ideas and don’t have the best ability to execute an idea, is there no way I can be a suitable business partner?” Before completely writing yourself off, think about this saying by manga hero Chan Ho-nam, “I, Chan Ho-nam, joined the underworld and is a boss today solely relying on three things: ruthlessness, personal loyalty and a lot of friends!”
If you cannot fight, having a lot of friends becomes even more important. If you don’t have money, but know investors that are willing to pull out their wallet, it’s fine too. Don’t have any technical knowledge? If you can find someone who does, then it’s not a problem. Not the most talented person in the world? No problem, just find a team of brainiacs to help you out.
As long as you’re equally functional, as long as you’re able to satisfy the same demands, then it doesn’t matter whether you use your own abilities or bring your connections or social network into play.
But to be on the safe side, you need to think through these few things as well.
The six features mentioned above are in fact the ones you should generally look for in a business partner. But to be honest, the sort of partner you really need largely depends on what kind of business you are in. The book “Business Model Generation,” published in 2010, points out the links between the nine key elements of the world’s most exemplary business models. The most suitable partner when starting a business, in most cases, depends on what kind of key recourses you need.
Most importantly, you have to like your partner. Founder of Dropbox Drew Houston once said in an interview, “You have to look for a partner that is willing ‘to get married on the first date’.” Famous investor Sam Altman and Founder of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg both say that when looking for a partner, a crucial point to consider is, “Am I willing to spend a lot of time together with this person?”
When starting a business you are going to spend a lot of time dealing with your partner. All this time will be much more pleasant if you get along with him or her.
A “business partner” or “co-founder” is a very difficult, high-risk and extremely tiring profession. But the circumstances of the last few years have not been well and Taiwan’s industrial relations have not been perfectly equal either, so an increasing amount of people want to give partnership a shot. If you are able to acquire the features of a good business partner, you will naturally gain more opportunities to get yourself out of this fiery situation.
In conclusion, when bringing up military strategists, one might think of Carl von Clausewitz; when talking about beauty, one tends to think of Helen of Troy and one cannot refrain from bringing up Kate Moss when discussing the world’s best top models. So when asked about the greatest business partner, who will you think of?
I personally want to recommend a character that might be able to stand as a model for one of the world’s greatest partners. In my opinion, the most suitable business partner in history might just be Doraemon. Don’t you agree?
Translated by Stijn Wijker
Edited by Olivia Yang