To Find a Great Business Partner, Look for Someone Smarter (and Different) Than You

Dec 20, 2017

By Michelle Wright

How can I find the right business partner? What qualities should I look for?

I recently attended a professional development event that was overflowing with tips, tricks and hacks to “unlock breakaway performance.” It kicked off with the standard business-speak and buzzwords, but one sentence stuck out to me. It contradicted my lifelong mantra of “be the best” and suggested the exact opposite – “Get out. If you’re the smartest person in the room, go to another room.”

High school, college, and my current corporate job have all pushed me to want to be the person who has all the answers. But, in doing so, I’ve been ignoring others and missing opportunities to learn about a perspective that is different than my own.

A few weeks ago, this sentiment was repeated, unknowingly, by a Managing Director who told me that her biggest secret is hiring people smarter than her.

There it is again! The concept that your best asset is actually the people around you. For the past 25+ years, I’ve been taught that it’s better to be a big fish in a small pond. But, when you’re trying to grow, develop and build a company, the exact opposite is true – surround yourself with people smarter than you. Learn from their experiences. Ask them for advice. Use them as a (safe) sounding board for strange new ideas. You have a lot to learn and a lot to do as an entrepreneur, so why spend time struggling when you can leverage the experiences of others?

There’s a business adage that managers like to hire people who remind them of themselves. But, when everyone is the same, it creates a fertile breeding ground for a hive mind (i.e., lack of individuality, identity, creativity, etc.). There is real value in hiring someone with a different perspective – they will challenge you, push you, and inspire you to do and be better than you would alone.

Of course, all advice is easier said than done. It can be difficult to ask for help – especially when you’re used to controlling everything yourself. And, it can be time consuming to network, meet people, and forge a new relationship – all when you’re trying to build your small business. But, investing time and energy into finding the right business partner will have an enormous impact on your business for the long run. It’s similar to dating or interviewing for a new job – it might be time consuming to find the right match, but once you do, it enables you to be the best and most successful version of yourself.

TL;DR (too long, didn’t read): The smartest thing you can do is hire someone smarter, and different, than you.

Image Courtesy of: Pixabay

Michelle Wright is a Citi Employee with over 5 years experience in corporate communications and a volunteer with NFTE (Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship). She is a regular contributor to the Ye! blog.


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