Last week I had two very different conversations with two very similar companies. Both had technical founders in the same general industry, but one founder had managed to recruit a team including a former McKinsey consultant, an investment banker and a seasoned sales lead – all willing to work for equity. The other founder was waiting for funding to recruit a business partner. Which company would you bet on?
If you need a business partner, don’t wait for funding. It is highly unlikely that funds will come first. Investors want to see a team, and you’ll need some business savvy to put together a pitch or even a grant request.
Here’s some advice for recruiting business partners:
- Get exposure to the business community. Join networks, incubators, accelerator programs or university challenges to get on the radar. Let people know that you are open and interested in finding a strong business partner.
- Sell your vision. Money follows vision. And that money includes people working for no cash because they believe in the vision. If a business person can see the market potential and the uniqueness of your product, they may be willing to take the risk to come join you.
- Be willing to share equity. It makes no sense to hold onto 100% of nothing, when you could recruit a team to build you company and own 25% of something. Ownership is a strong motivator, so share some upside when you find talent interested in creating the future with you.
- Be willing to share cash. When the cash does come in, from investors or revenue, then it’s time to start paying enough to keep your team together. The dance of negotiation will determine how much and how soon, but the carrot of a strong vision for the future will keep negotiation on your side.
- Be willing to share control. New owners want to put their fingerprints on the strategy and priorities for the company. You may think they are crazy, and maybe they are, but that’s where your powers of persuasion and willingness to share risk come to bear. Your new partners want to succeed as much as you do, and are investing their sweat and time as well as giving up other income opportunities. Trusting the intelligence and intention of your team is the only way to go.