When entrepreneur Brian Scudamore went looking for a business partner three years ago he gathered his LinkedIn contact list and fired off a mass e-mail describing his perfect match.
He received a number of suggestions, including three people in three different parts of North America who recommended one guy: Erik Church.
After 14 months and interviews with about 75 candidates, Mr. Scudamore picked Mr. Church to be president and chief operating officer of O2E Brands, the company that oversees his three franchise companies: 1-800-GOT-JUNK, Wow 1 Day Painting, and You Move Me.
“I believe in two-box leadership – that the head position of the company is better served by two people with complimentary strengths and weaknesses,” Mr. Scudamore says. “Where I’m the vision guy and the culture guy, I needed an executor.”
The social media outreach worked so well that Mr. Scudamore is using it again to find a business partner to run the flagship franchise for Wow 1 Day Painting.
He recently sent an e-mail to about 6,000 LinkedIn contacts describing in detail the type of entrepreneur he’s looking for.
“I am not looking for an employee, but rather a business partner who will earn equity with this awesome opportunity,” the e-mail states. "I am looking for someone who’s at the front end of their career, and may be looking for an ownership opportunity, earned through hard work and passion for what they do.
“This is a lead from the front, hands-on role that has tremendous opportunity.”
Mr. Scudamore says more than two-thirds of the e-mails sent have been read so far, and he’s already interviewing candidates among dozens of recommendations received to date.
“I’m a big believer that the best candidates are referred versus recruited, so why not connect with my network and ask who they know?” he says.
Social media is one way entrepreneurs are seeking business partners. Other techniques include online job boards, organized online or in-person meetups, or hackathons, where entrepreneurs are forced to work together to build products or solve technical challenges over a weekend without proper food or sleep.
At a Vancouver hackathon in November, 2013, two founders from each of Map Dash and Thinkific came together to create Latergram.me, an Instagram scheduling company. The teams had met through Launch Academy, a Vancouver-based business that helps match entrepreneurs with partners and mentors.
Latergram co-founder Roger Patterson, who also co-founded Launch Academy, says a hackathon is a great way to form a team and potentially a company. “You work with people in an intense way for 48 hours, so you really get to see what they are like, what their skillsets are, and whether you like working with them.”
Latergram now has more than 100,000 signups, including National Football League teams and several Fortune 500 companies and all four founders are working full-time at the company.
“Our story isn’t the most traditional of stories, but there are some universal techniques of how to form a team,” Mr. Patterson says.
Finding a business partner is a lot like dating, which includes surviving the highs and lows of the relationship, says Jonathan Bixby, general partner at Stanley Park Ventures and a founder of business accelerator Highline.
“It starts at the honeymoon stage and goes up and down and then ends in divorce more commonly, probably, than regular marriage,” he adds.
When he’s investing in a startup Mr. Bixby asks the founders and partners where they are in their relationship. What he’s looking for is some experience through good and bad times, and that the partners are still working well together.
How they manage the tough times is key, including trust.
“If you don’t trust your co-founder or partner you’re in trouble,” says Mr. Bixby, who has founded and run companies with his twin brother, Joshua.
Experts say making a friend or family member a business partner can be a bad idea, unless you’re sure business and personal matters can be separated, which is difficult.
When he started his junk removal business, Mr. Scudamore worked with friends from school, which in hindsight wasn’t the best move.
“We were better being friends and I didn’t have the leadership maturity to have a business relationship with them to say, ‘Here’s how we keep business, business and personal, personal.’”
For those starting a business from scratch or looking for their first partner, Mr. Scudamore recommends being clear on the type of partner needed and wanted, and the vision for the company. It also means knowing the type of partner you would be.
“Finding a good business partner means understanding your strengths and also understanding your weaknesses and finding a complimentary fit,” he says. “Everyone is different.”Report Typo/Error