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Myth: Business Partners Need Complementary Skills

It’s a myth that you and your choice of the right business partner should have complementary skills.

I agree it can be a good thing, but it is not a requirement and sometimes it might take you into a bad partnership if you hold it as high priority criteria. Bottom line, it is not even necessary.

Both Ellen and Sandy had the same design and marketing skills. They met in school where they were studying the same thing. They became close friends and had the same idea for a business. They worked so well together not just creating, but brainstorming new ideas and new ways to operationalize and market them. The results are that their products are growing in sales in stores across the country and they enjoy their partnership relationship.

In their case “two heads are better than one”. One plus one is greater than the sum of two.

Of course, a business, depending on its size needs the additional skills of handling technology, finances, manufacturing, equipment, employees, vendors, etc.

Usually even partners who have complementary skills still have some areas which none of them know how to do. They either take it upon themselves to learn or they hire others from the outside as employees or consultants, such as lawyers and accountants, sub-contractors, such as IT experts, designers, marketers and others to do the missing tasks.

Other common examples of business partners who share the same skill sets are lawyers, real estate agents, accountants, doctors, dentists, therapists, online technology companies and many others. In all of these situations, it becomes necessary to find people on the outside to hire as support staff or with whom to consult. Why is that a bad thing?

The misconceptions that abound in the advice arena about choosing the right partner often leave out the most important elements that partners need to share.

Some of them are:

  • High level of communication skills
  • Compatible personalities and work styles (differences can work, but clarification beforehand is a must)
  • Shared values
  • Shared or at least compatible visions for business and for personal lives
  • Agreement about the mission of the business
  • A win/win exit strategy
  • And most important of all they must trust and respect each other
  • Of course there is much more to setting up an actual business together, but if these most important elements are not present, complementary or shared skills won’t matter. Do not reject a potential partner just because you both share the same skill set.

    In the case of Ellen and Sandy and many others, especially in the tech field, it really pays off and it may for you too. Learn more here .