Does anyone have any general advice on finding a business partner? I want to find a like-minded person to start a business with. I'm done with school, I don't know a lot of people, and I don't live in a terribly big town (Grand Rapids, MI) so I imagine I have to be especially resourceful. I've checked the meetup groups around here but so far I haven't found any kind of "entrepreneur meetup." Any advice? For those of you who have business partners, how did you meet them?
There is no defined place to find trustworthy, hard-working business partners. You either know one, or are one-degree-of-separation from one. Having someone join your venture in that capacity is like a marriage. They have to be fully supportive and fully invested. They must be a good match to your personality. You may not need a business partner. You need employees willing to work for equity.
You can find a Russian bride pretty easily, but how often does that work out long-term?
So 'business partner' has the clue. 'Business' - it's about creating and monetising value for other people. 'Partner' - you're going to be very close together for maybe a very long time.
Here's what I do.
I work really hard to meet people who share my interests. Find the groups. Complain about there not being any groups until someone corrects me and shows me the group, or I've met a bunch of people who agree there should be a group like that - and we start one.
I invest time with people knocking around business ideas. I'm looking for someone who thinks a bit like me but at least comes at things from a different angle. I'm looking for someone whose present situation and aspirations are reasonably similar to mine. And I'm looking for someone who I can imagine depending on in a crisis.
When I think I've found them, I say, "let's see what it's like actually working together." I don't care much what we do, as long as (a) it's reasonably compact; (b) it's reasonably challenging; (c) we both care about it; (d) we can both afford the limited time, cash, resource, reputation risk.
Some people I've been thinking it would be cool to work with drop out because they can't see the point. If we're going to do something, let's do something huge and amazing. But I don't want anyone to trust me that much without any actual experience of working together. Impulse partnerships just don't have that great a track record.
Then some people make other excuses. They're generally the coffee cup entrepreneurs. At the moment, this is a dream for them. The last thing they want now is to spoil the dreams of success with the mess of actually going for it. So I'm happy to hang out with them - but they're not the business partner for today.
If there's anyone left - well, now we need to get on with whatever it is. We need to agree something to do. We need to get started. We need to solve problems. We need to build trust. We'll need to cover gaps where neither of us has the experience / capability / temperament we need. And we'll succeed, or we'll fail, and we'll find out if the time was fun enough and profitable enough that it's worth doing more.
My experience is all that is going to take at least six months, and maybe much more. So meanwhile I need to know how I'm going to make ends meet, and how I'm going to continually meet more people, find more opportunities and create something meaningful independent of my search.
That's hard work.
But if you're an entrepreneur, it's exactly that hard work that will energise you, and build the network that will support venture after venture.
I'm exactly where you are right now. I'm a software developer and I'm looking for a biz co-founder. My answer to this is: Go to as many meetups and entrepreneurial events as possible. There are a lot of biz guys who are looking for techies like you and me. Talk to them as much as possible.
If you have your own idea (like I do) - it would be harder because usually they have their own ideas and try to recruit you for 10% of equity :)
Are you sure you need a business partner? I have generally been the kind of person who finds an idea, and executes on it. Most people who want to be my business partner have ideas, and no execution.
I would recommend you do a bit of soul searching into why you are looking for a partner. The most successful partners tend to excel in different areas - typically one in tech and the other in sales, and can augment the others weakness.
If you have the skills to execute on your idea, I would recommend you just start working today. If you don't already have a natural partner, plan on hiring help after you get revenue instead of giving up 50% equity for a partner you may not really need.
What role would you like you partner to play? Do you need a business help, sales, or technology? If you have an idea for business -- it'll be easier to identify what you potential partner is.
Can you do this business by yourself? Talk to others that have business experience, partnerships are the hardest business to run. Search this board for posts on this topic.
Best of luck.