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Eric Kinoti, MD, Shade Systems Ltd


Five factors to consider when choosing a business partner


Eric Kinoti is the MD of Shades System East Africa

Yes, it is possible for you to start a business on your own and to grow it and run it successfully. But there are instances you might need strategic partner/s to achieve your goal. Many entrepreneurs do not even make it beyond the starting point, simply because they do not have the right partner.

Business, like football, is often about working with the right team. Messi is an amazing footballer who seems to score goals for fun and is going towards breaking every record in football history. But for all his brilliance, he depends on his teammates. Iniesta and Xavi provide the passes and Mascherano organizes the team’s defense. It is all a partnership.

I had to sell shares in my company at some point for liquidity purposes and in some cases to get strategic partners who helped guide the business and to make it into the success it now is. I quickly learnt that to move quicker and to achieve bigger, I had to partner with the right people and to do things in the right way.

Would you rather own 10 percent of Sh10 billion or 100 percent of Sh10 million? Just a thought! Many young people think that partners bring only money. However, there are various characteristics you should look out before bringing a partner on board.

1. Shared vision and goals

First and foremost, you must have the same vision with the person you want to partner with. Even if he/she brings to the table a billion dollars and you don’t share the same vision and goals, you will not go far.

A partner must believe in your idea or make it a better idea. He must be someone who believes in your abilities and respects the goals and targets you have set out for the company.  What do you see when you look in the future? Do both of you see the same thing or everyone has their own translation and opinion?

2. Good work ethic and open to criticism

This should go without saying. Your business partner needs to work as hard as you do, and should be pushing you to give your all to the success of the new venture.

If someone’s past track record says they’re lazy or unenthusiastic, look elsewhere. You don’t want to have to pick up anyone’s slack, especially if it’s your partner. That’s dead weight your business can’t afford to carry.

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Choose a business partner who values employees’ input no matter their role in the company and can take constructive criticism.

3. Trust

This is non-negotiable. It also needs to be unreserved and unambiguous. It’s easy to say, “Sure, I trust this person. They don’t lie, steal or cheat.” But it needs to go way deeper than that.

Do you trust them to make the right call on a tax issue? What if you disagreed about the topic in question on more than one occasion and never came up with a mutually satisfactory answer?

Do you trust them enough to tell them how you really feel about the stunt they pulled at a client meeting? Do you trust them to forgive you if you make a huge, embarrassing mistake?

Think carefully about whether this person has always demonstrated respect for others, including people they don’t like. Are they fair and reasonable in day-to-day negotiations? How do they handle political or religious conversations? Do you believe them when they say they are sorry? Your values have to align if the business is to move in the same direction.

4. Communication Skills

If one person wants to talk it all out and the other person just wants to move on without processing, it’s going to be tough to get through the kinds of conversations you need to have as business partners.

Good communication skills involve everyone in the business, including employees. As partners, you’ll need to keep each other up-to-date on all things business related.

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The last thing you want is to be left in the dark and upset with the end results so make sure your partner is transparent and able to communicate well. This will also help in getting investors on board.

5. Great Networks

Your business partner needs to be a people person. If they have a good rapport with others, whether it is past employers, employees, or business partners, then they know how to manage and work with other people.

Plus, those past connections can turn into new clients for your burgeoning enterprise. You should also look for someone who is well connected and has business links in many places, with a wealth of experience to boot.

Your net worth equals your networks.



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