7 Places to Look for Business Partnerships

Could you use a business partner? Business partnerships can be found in places you'd never imagine. Keeping an open mind may open a lot of doors.
Journalist, freelance writer
September 22, 2017

At some point along your entrepreneurial journey, you may become interested in searching for business partnerships.

It may be because you realize that you don't have all the skills your company needs to make it to that next level, or maybe you need a deep-pocketed partner.

Whatever your reasoning, if you're searching for business partnerships, you may be wondering where to look.

“The where is anywhere and everywhere," says Andrew Legrand, a small-business attorney in New Orleans. His firm Spera Law Group specializes in business partnership agreements.

But "anywhere and everywhere" is a bit of a broad description. For some more specific suggestions on where to look, try these places.

1. Talk to your financial advisor or attorney.

Assuming you have one, Legrand suggests starting there. Just give him or her a heads up that you're considering bringing on a partner and ask if they know anyone who might be interested in joining forces.

“They typically deal with people in these situations," he says.

2. Consult a business broker for potential business partnerships.

You may want to start with the International Business Brokers Association, Inc. to find a business broker. (A business broker is a professional who assists in the selling and buying of a business.) 

If you're going to become somebody's partner, a business broker might be an appropriate path for you. (Especially if this is a complicated arrangement, and you're investing serious money that's going into the company.) You can find one by going to a search engine and typing in your city or state and “business broker." 

That said, this is a strategy for businesses with plenty of cash on hand to spare: You may have to pay thousands of dollars to retain a business broker's services.

3. Look at your clients from the past and present.

You may work with a client or a client's employee who you think would make a great business partner. (Though if you poach a client's employee or your own client, they may soon be an ex-client.)

It's ideal to find someone whose work you know and whose personality and skills complement your own.

—Tina Mosetis, founder, MosetisPR

Some of your customers may know your business very well and may have skills you'd like to bring into your business. Losing a client and gaining a business partner may be worth considering.

4. Think about former business contacts.

Tina Mosetis started her public relations firm MosetisPR in 1994. A couple of years later, Mosetis thought she might benefit from having a business partner.

Before she struck out on her own, Mosetis had been a PR executive for the American Cancer Society. It occurred to her that one of their volunteers, Charlotte Tomic, had been extremely impressive.

"We both respected and admired each other's work," Mosetis says. "And we had stayed in touch over the years."

About 20 years after joining forces, they're still business partners, 50/50.

“When I was looking for a business partner, I realized the person was right there in front of me… So I would say it's ideal to find someone whose work you know and whose personality and skills complement your own," Mosetis says.

5. Tap into your community network.

Business partnerships can truly be found anywhere.

Rod Brown, a serial entrepreneur in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, says that he found two business partners through his pastor.

In 2005, his pastor told him about a fellow church member who was considering selling a tech startup. The church member had just started the company, but realized he didn't have the skill set to turn it into a thriving business. Brown, then a vice president at a bank, was asked if he could offer the novice entrepreneur some advice.

As it happened, Brown knew the man: Trinity Manning.

"We were friends who happened to attend the same church," Brown says. "Our pastor brought myself and several other church leaders together to discuss Trinity's options. The group formed a temporary mastermind of sorts. Starting a business was far from my mind."

Brown thought he would just be offering advice. But before he knew it, he and another church-goer, Ty McLaughlin, were agreeing to become business partners.

Brown is now the chief operating officer of OnceLogix, a software company that specializes in web-based solutions for the healthcare industry.

6. Consider partnering with friends or family.

You know them well, you like them. But if partnering with loved ones is going to work, you really need to take the time to first establish clear goals, roles, accountability and compensation.

Once you've had that settled, put it in writing, warns Terry Dockery, a licensed business psychologist and founder and president of the Business Psychology Company, a consultancy in Atlanta. Obviously, that's what all business partnerships should do at the beginning, but it's especially important with family and friends.

“Ambiguity is the enemy, and it guarantees later conflicts," Dockery says. “There are a hundred ways to make a buck, but you only have one family, and really good friends are hard to find."

That goes for spouses, too, he says.

“Husband-wife partnerships are particularly challenging," Dockery says. "While some work very well, it's really easy to let the business and business discussions begin to dominate the relationship and take the fun out of it."

It is hard when you're working with friends, Legrand agrees, speaking from personal experience. He once brought on a partner into his law firm, and they worked together for awhile.

"We were classmates and friends in law school. After graduating, he went to work for a larger firm, and I started my solo practice," Legrand says. "We both wanted to practice business law and figured that two heads were better than one. We both also had something to offer: I had a solid base upon which to build, and he had business experience and access to a network of former clients at the firm."

They ended up dissolving their partnership a year and a half later, however.

"We both wanted to be the leader, and neither of us wanted to be second fiddle. Nothing wrong with that, it's just who we are," Legrand says.

They parted amicably, but Legrand admits, "Like many former partners who started out as friends, we talk significantly less than we used to."

7. Put the word out among your business associates that you're looking for business partners.

Just like some single people tell friends that they'd love to meet someone in hopes that their friends will keep them in mind if they meet a potentially good match, consider telling your fellow business acquaintances that you're looking to bring on a partner.

You may be approached by people you'd rather not go into business with—and like dating, you need to be selective, says Dockery.

"Business partnerships are a type of marriage. If you marry the right partner your life will be much better. If you marry the wrong partner your life will be much worse. Like a marriage, 'date' before you get 'engaged' and be engaged a while before you get 'married,'" Dockery says.

In other words, don't rush into anything. Just because your skill sets match on paper, it doesn't necessarily mean you'd make good business partners.

Read more articles on team structure.

Photo: Getty Images
Journalist, freelance writer