How to Choose a Business Partner

I’ve always wanted to work for myself, always wanted to take all my training and experience as a Psychologist and Recruitment Manager to help organisations become better at how they recruit, onboard and manage their people. However, having a business partner was something I hadn’t even considered, but now it makes perfect sense. Looking back, we even unwittingly used our E=MP2 model before we even came up with it!

It’s been almost a year since I received a call from Phil, someone I’d previously worked with. He was looking for some advice about his career as he was becoming increasingly frustrated with how dysfunctional the recruitment industry was, he sought a change and wanted to explore what he could do next.

I agreed to help and sent him a battery of psychometric tests to complete. This was to help us understand his strengths and weaknesses, his working preferences, the type of organisation that would align to his values and what his motivations were. Whilst analysing the results of these tests I noticed that we had very different styles, absolute opposites in most areas across the tools we used. His strengths were my weaknesses and his ‘development areas’ were my strengths. Interestingly, our values and motives were practically identical.

When we got together I made a flippant remark that as we thought in very different ways, we should go into partnership as together we would be the very definition of synergy! We laughed it off, and concentrated on Phil’s options. But the idea didn’t go away, we had numerous discussions about going into business together and what we could do. After a great deal of research, debate and collaboration, MP Squared came to life.

We have now completed some great client work together and despite the fact we approach work in very different ways, we are learning to work well together and use each others’ strengths to achieve significantly more than we would have been able to alone. We thought it would be useful to share some lessons we have learnt along the way.

1. Understand each other

I believe that it is vital to not get into these critical business partnerships without exploring how you would work together. We spent time collecting and analysing information about our personality preferences, motives and values. Knowing our psychometrics allows us to understand where each of us is coming from and make allowances for each other. We understand where each of our strengths and weaknesses lie and went into our partnership with our ‘eyes wide open’.

It has been useful to understand how we each approach work and how we respond when we are under pressure as launching a new business isn’t always plain sailing. So understanding what happens to each of us when overplaying our strengths in times of pressure is useful. I regularly check back through the composite psychometric reports we compiled at the start of the process.

Despite all these differences, we have a lot in common; we both value autonomy; have a massive need for independence; whilst being spontaneous, adventurous and highly adaptable. We detest wasted effort and a common frustration was how a lot of businesses we know are wasting time, effort and significant amounts of money not getting their recruitment right, yet not doing anything to fix the problem. We have scientific minds, we have a need to understand what makes a good performer perform well in organisations. We also both like to be a part of a team, so that was a good start!

2. Strength in diversity

High performing teams are made up of people who can bring different elements to the table, when a team has no diversity it does not perform. There’s no challenge and this is where you’ll find yourself maintaining the ‘status quo’ or ‘doing the same thing over and over again, yet expecting a different result’.

Pick people that complement you, who make up for your failings, yet shares your values. Before now, the best team I had ever worked in and the most productive was with an amazing lady who was the opposite of me; she was the most organised, systematic and meticulous person I had ever worked with. She was able to successfully project manage the most complicated project that has ever landed on anyone’s lap, we worked so well together it surprised everyone, including us!

3. Open Communication

To be successful, you need to decide which roles you will take in the business and have some clear roles and areas of responsibility. We had no problems with deciding this, Phil is the Commercial Director, driving the development of the business and looking after the finances. I’m the Delivery Director, responsible for ensuring clients are delighted. For this to work we need to be constantly communicating.

People have different preferred ways of communicating. We have both come away from various conversations thinking we have heard something else and we have learnt that writing stuff down to check understanding (very informal meeting minutes) is the way forward. It’s in black and white so no misunderstanding down the line.

4. Trust each other

There has got to be trust for any relationship to work, perhaps more so in starting a business. Both partners have to pull their weight and contribute, it’s not easy starting a business. This is especially true when you are growing a business with a partner and you both like to be in charge and be in control, but when there’s only two of you on the board it can be an interesting dynamic.

Also at some point along the journey, one or both of you will probably become fed up of the daily grind and feel like bolting back to the safety and security of a job. On days like that, our best advice is to make sure that the other person knows how you feel and have an open and frank conversation about what’s bothering you before it gets to the point of a breakdown.

Also, nobody knows it all; be open to learning from each other. Listen to each other.

5. Be prepared to compromise

Prepare to work through Tuckman’s stages of team development. As a Psychologist it has been an interesting journey to observe, especially whilst being a part of it. It has not been linear in any way. At the start of any team, everyone is on their best behaviour (forming), yet focused on themselves. Once we had tackled the ‘easy topics’, we had to get into detail and for a partnership who likes differing amount of detail it was an interesting time (storming). We accepted our differences actually make the team and business stronger and became more comfortable in our shared goal (norming). We have completed some excellent work together and when one of us feels stuck with something, a different perspective can help move the task or project along (performing).

You need to compromise; when you go into business, you have to be able to stand up for yourself, you can’t get things your own way all the time. You have to understand and agree how you should make decisions if you both are diametrically opposed and learn to negotiate a ‘win:win’ for you both.

6. Have fun

Finally, and this is against advice that I would give to someone employing a member of staff, it’s important to note that you should probably like the person (most of the time) that you are go into partnership with. You should be able to get along outside of work, because, let’s face it, launching a business is not a Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 kind of job.

How we can help you choose your ideal business partner

If you are bringing in another leader into your organisation or if you are experiencing difficulties and conflict within your leadership team, get in touch with us to speak to us about exploring your personality preferences, values and motives. We can look at your current team and identify where the gaps are and what kind of person you should be looking to bring into your organisation. We can help you understand how you approach relationships at work, how you like to communicate and how you go about influencing others. We can help you understand differences in how you tackle problems, how you make decisions and like to plan and organise your work. We will also look at how you deal with your emotions at work, what happens in stressful situations, how resilient and adaptable you are. Ultimately, we can help you construct the best team for you and your culture, that is how excellence is created.

About us

MP2 is a business founded by an Organisational Psychologist and Recruitment Director. We show businesses scientific and reliable methods of selecting employees which predict performance and achieve business excellence. We believe that aligning culture and values, and being able to define excellence in employees is key to retaining talent and achieving excellence by increasing performance.

How can we help you?

Contact us at MP Squared to see how we can help you and your business.