We're asked a lot how we decided to become business partners which is kind of hilarious to us because 1.) Mallory never wanted a business partner in her past businesses and 2.) Anna never even wanted to be a business owner. But here we are... business partners and can't believe there was ever a time we weren't working together in this capacity! If you've read our #BoldBossTribe story, you know that the company we worked for prior to Bold & Pop was planning on shutting down our department and we both needed to figure out something stat. Neither of us were finding other jobs that interested us and then one day Anna brought up the idea of Bold & Pop and well, Mallory just kind of hopped on and the rest is history.
In our case, things fell into place pretty organically and the series of events lined up to launch our business together, but you might be at a different stage of your business. Maybe you're just playing with the idea of starting something new and considering partnering up. Maybe you've established yourself and are thinking about bringing on a partner to expand or share responsibilities, or maybe you don't need or even want a business partner! No matter where you're at on the scale, we've seen firsthand how beneficial having a biz bestie is and definitely consider it a huge contributing factor to our success (yes, even Mallory who never wanted a biz partner!). This is for a few reasons but mainly because of the accountability it offers us as well as the complementary skills we both bring to the table.
So if you're considering bringing on a business partner or you're just not ready to go it alone, read on because these are our tips for finding the perfect partnership.
Knowing How You Work Together
MM: I think this was one of the biggest reasons I didn't want a business partner. Group projects in college traumatized me and I was terrified that I'd be stuck doing everything myself. But since Anna and I worked together prior to starting Bold & Pop, I knew we already worked really well together... both in-person and remotely. It was a nice little trial run!
We also had a working relationship prior to our friendship. During college, I saw a lot of people start businesses with friends and it go horribly wrong. Just because you get along personally does not mean you'll have a good business relationship. Be selective. Maybe try working together on a few projects first before forming a formal partnership to see how it goes and work out any kinks that may need to be worked out.
AO: This question is funny because some of the reasons I wasn't interested in ever starting a business is 1.) holy work and 2.) I actually really like having a team for projects, so the idea of going at something alone just didn't really interest me. So kind of opposite of Mallory -- although, I was never a fan of group projects in college either 😜. I had daydreamed of freelancing or having a job with more flexibility that allowed me to split time between NYC (where I was living at the time) and back in the Seattle area, but I never jumped on that idea and a lot of that was because of the fear of doing it alone. It really wasn't until the exact moment I was talking to Mallory about the job hunt and options and we landed on talking about partnering up that I was like, holy shittakes, this is a great idea!
As Mallory mentioned, we had the benefit of already working together prior to starting this venture, which was immensely helpful. We'd already worked together for 3+ years at that time so we were already pretty familiar with how we problem solved and our working styles. Which I totally get a lot of people won't always have that same experience. Something you may want to look at though are other things you've worked together on as a team. Have you volunteered together? Worked on class projects? Part of an organization? Or have you planned a party/or vacation together? All are great ways to evaluate how you may work together in a business environment. As with any relationship, there will be some bumps on the road but it's really about evaluating and identifying someone who will be a good partner through the good and bad times. Yes, I know I'm making this sound like a marriage, but truly knowing how you work together when things are stressful (and there will be many times) is a good test.
If you're considering going into biz with a friend, I'd kind of compare the transition of friends becoming roommates. I've been fairly lucky with roommates over the years, but doing so brings out the best (and worst) out of some people. Just like you have some friends who you love but know you should never live with, there are some friends who are great as friends but you probably shouldn't start a business with them.
What Are Your Work Styles/Lifestyles Like
MM: When it comes to your work styles and lifestyles, are you on a similar page? Meaning do you take similar approaches in your processes and business? Consider some of the following:
Do you like to work similar hours?
Does it matter if you work similar hours?
Are you a workaholic and your business partner's not?
How do you both deal with criticism?
How do your problem-solving skill compare?
What about your compromising skills?
As business partners, you need to work as a well-oiled machine and considering your work styles and lifestyles prior to partnering up will definitely help ensure you're the right fit or you'll end up beyond frustrated trying to work with someone that's not on the same page as you.
AO: This topic is SO. DANG. IMPORTANT #ALLCAPSNECESSARY. Like check, check to all of Mallory's bullet points. This one really piggybacks off of the last topic because these are all questions you and your potential business partner should go through. Kind of like pre-marital counseling (I sure have a lot of martial analogies for a non-married chick 😂). Talking about this stuff upfront can be key for setting a productive work environment starting with office hours. If one of you is a early bird and the other is a night owl, you're going to have to find some common ground on how you're going to work together. While it's definitely not a dealbreaker if you're opposite, you just need to have a plan in place to make things work.
In our business, we like to maintain standard office hours so when I moved to the west coast it took a little time to get things sorted out. After about a month of starting work later than Mallory since I was in a different timezone, I realized.. you know what this isn't maximizing our productivity. We like to check in in the morning about our daily tasks and even though I was started at 7 or 8 am PST it was already 10 or 11 am EST and it was eating into our day more than it could of. So while I don't loveee getting up at 5:30 -- this girl used to be a self-proclaimed night owl, doesn't get up before 8 am girl -- I bumped up my hours to work on an east coast schedule because it just made the most sense. Same goes for how I like to write my weekly blog posts in the evenings generally and Mallory like to get a jump on some things on the weekend. We all know what works best for us so it's important to share that and be respectful of what works for each of you.
Beyond that, I think the last 3 bullets will make or break you! Talking about problem-solving skills, ability to compromise, and dealing with criticism. Biz is not ice cream and ponies all of the time, and working with someone who has complementary problem-solving skills is CRUCIAL! You need someone who can brainstorm with you, come up with a solution and get things done. If you're both panickers and just have a fit when things go wrong, then you might have some issues.
Next up, compromising and how you handle criticism, which I think go hand-in-hand. Seeing eye-to-eye and having similar views on big ticket items is important in your biz, but you don't have to agree on everything. In fact, it's the unique traits and perspectives you bring to the table that makes your business better. What you do have to think about is how you respond to that. Are you defensive? Are you willing to hear out your business partner's ideas when they differ? can you meet in the middle? All important questions to ask yourself.
Mallory and I don't always see eye-to-eye on things, but I like to think we've mastered hearing each other out and I credit that to being a BIG reason why we work so well together. We acknowledge we both have different ideas on things, are willing to try both ideas out or talk about them, and try to decide what is best for the situation or project. If you can find that balance.. GOLDEN!
What Are Your Big Picture Goals for the Business
MM: Don't underestimate this one! Think about how difficult it would be for us (or you!) if Anna wanted to grow our business into some huge corporation and I was cool with just keeping it small and enough to live off of. There would be a constant struggle and divide in the vision for the company which just wouldn't work out! Anna and I were both very clear about what we wanted for and from Bold & Pop when we started so we knew we were on the same page!
AO: This is another important thing to talk about! I think 5 year plans can be a little cheesy, but where the heck do you want this journey to go? Do you want offices all over the country? Do you want to grow your business as fast as you can and sell it for top dollar later? What the heck are you in this for? Having that answer and being on the same page is another cruicial factor.
How Do You Manage Money
MM & AO: One thing you'll get reallyyy comfortable with when running your own business is talking about money. But how you and your business partner manage money will tell a whole different story on how you'll fair as partners. You can have one wanting to save money where you can and the other one spending willy nilly. Anna and I both manage our personal finances in a very similar way AND want to be as thrifty as possible when it comes to business expenses. When we need to upgrade something or want to add a new system/expense, we have a rational discussion and always agree if it's worth the investment at that particular time.
How Do Your Skill Sets Compare
MM: When it comes to your skill sets, I think it's important to have complementary skills. While a lot of our skills overlap, we each have specific roles that the other isn't necessarily an expert in. For example, Anna is the graphics wizard while Mallory handles the majority of coding when it comes to web design. This not only allows us to more easily divide and conquer tasks but also allows us to offer even more services to our clients.
AO: Yes! Ditto to what Mallory said. This is actually a really great reason TO bring on a business partner too... to expand the services you can offer! Having different areas of expertise can expedite your process and projects too. When we're working on design projects, I can work on graphics while Mallory implements custom coding. Being able to divide and conquer has been great for us because even on the places where our skills overlap, I know there are certain things Mallory can do way faster/or likes to do more than I do and vice versa.
Have an Exit Strategy
MM: We get it... No one wants to talk about a break up before you even start dating but when it comes to biz, it's necessary! Make sure you have a really open and honest conversation with each other to discuss what happens if things start to get strained between you. What happens if things don't work out? Have a plan in place!
AO: The reality is there are a lot of business partnerships that turn sour... and even though you never hope it happens to you, it might. So I think having an exit plan if things don't work out is key. This should be even more important if you're starting a venture with a good friend. Things might not always work out but having a plan in place and lessen the pain if it happens.
We hope you've found this post helpful! Building a strong partnership for our business can been so important to our success and we hope it is for you as well if you decide to go down that path! If we missed any of your burning questions, definitely drop us a comment below or shoot us a message!