two colleagues high-fiving
While business partners can be that shoulder you need to lean on, they can also create difficulty when it comes to things like differences in opinion or decision-making. — Getty Images/nortonrsx

No matter how you look at it, starting a business is tough. Between generating new clients, assembling a team and managing day-to-day operations, any founder will have their hands full.

You might think that if you launch with a business partner, the undertaking will be easier. However, a business partnership is not for everyone.

Before you give up your sole proprietor status, consider the following pros and cons of taking on a business partner.

[Read: What Is a General Partnership?]

The pros of having a business partner

Having a business partner is exactly that: a partner. Choosing someone with whom you can work well, share ideas and spend time is key, and can carry several benefits.

Different perspectives and strengths

One big pro of a business partner is having someone who can complement your strengths, weaknesses and skill set.

Tiara Zolnierz, co-founder of EnrichHER, appreciates that she and her business partner have different backgrounds (sales versus engineering), which means they solve and approach problems differently.

"We are day and night, and though this works well, we have had our fair share of disagreements," said Zolnierz. "[But] conflict is a normal part of life; it's how we handle the conflicts is what matters."

Larger opportunities and networks

If you start a business by yourself, it's on you to get your name out there. With partners, you have multiple people all working to spread the word and leverage their connections.

"Taking on business partners has opened doors I wouldn't have imagined," said Katie Melissa, a serial digital entrepreneur. "[My partners] have beneficial celebrity and influencer networks I wouldn't have had access to before. Most importantly, they opened my eyes to a new world of collective thinking and working as a team."

Sharing the burden of entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship can be lonely and isolating at times, but a partner understands the ups and downs of business ownership.

"You can vent, cry, laugh, celebrate and toil with someone who understands the intense pressure that is on employers," said Sam Eitzen, CEO of The SnapBar. "More practically, delegation and decision-making can become more outsourced."

Similarly, Kathleen Crowley, founder of KAUTE, appreciated that she and her former business partner could give each other solid advice and provide solace.

"My partner was the only one who called me out when I was dragging my feet on making a major decision," added Crowley.

Open and honest communication is paramount for a successful partnership.

Kathleen Crowley, founder, KAUTE

The cons of having a business partner

While the idea of having someone to share the burden of business with, vent to and rely on for help are all appealing characteristics of a business partnership, there may come times — like in many relationships — where disagreements happen and differences arise.

The perception of inequality

Michael Drake, president of PMG Home Loans, said the most common failure in business partnerships is the "work ethic clash."

"Inevitably, one person feels they work harder than the other, or they are not fairly compensated for the division of work," Drake told CO—. "Be upfront about responsibilities, expectations and compensation."

Decision stalemates

When Donna Davis, founder of Pro Video Talent, had a business partner, she didn’t realize the extent to which partners could create a stalemate on business decisions.

"When we disagreed about new initiatives, nothing got done," she explained. "Entrepreneurs ... want to chart their own course, make decisions quickly and get things accomplished. We don’t like having our hands tied while trying to convince a partner of something."

Differing visions and personal interests

While you may be able to scale your business faster by working with someone, you might eventually find that personal interests overrule what's best for the business. This was Bill Huang's experience when he founded VOLT Oceania with partners.

"Each of us had different visions for the company," he said "This led to many disagreements and damaged our working relationship. We had to summon an emergency meeting [to settle] disagreements within the company leadership, and it led to the resignation of two of my business partners."

[Read: How to Choose the Right Business Structure]

How to choose the right business partner

If you're leaning toward taking on a business partner, Andres Lares, managing partner of SNI, said the most important elements to consider are trust, value and varied skill sets – and all three should be present in order to move forward.

"Without trust, it won't work," said Lares. "If they don't bring value then it will lack balance and strain the relationship. If the skill sets aren't different ... you step on each other's toes."

Most importantly, be sure that you and your partner(s) can communicate well with each other.

"Open and honest communication is paramount for a successful partnership," said Crowley. "If [this] is not a strength for either partner, then going it alone might be a better solution."

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CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Published October 30, 2019