Should you go it alone or with a partner?

By: Chris Barling

Date: 10 January 2011

When starting a business, one of the big decisions to make is whether to go it alone or start up with one or more partners.

There are pros and cons to both approaches, but one thing is for sure - it's one of the most critical decisions you will make in your life. Not only can a lot of future prosperity depend on it, but it can also make a big difference to how happy you will be over many years to come.

If you're on your own there's no one else to fall out with; no one but you can decide to give up; have a family crisis or mess things up in some other way.

However, the right partner will usually double your financial resources and experience and you can encourage each other when times are hard. And the cocktail of skills you both have, along with the other factors, means that you're more likely to succeed.

If you don't have a partner and your business grows, you will need to employ staff. It's a big jump from no employees to one (let alone more), both in cultural and financial terms. If there is more than one founder, it's a smaller step.

When I was thinking of starting a business, for all of the positive reasons above I spent a lot of time looking for and wooing a business partner. I found someone with more entrepreneurial experience than me, who was great at raising funds and who brought with him substantial financial resources. Less than four years after we had started, we'd achieved a full listing on the London Stock Exchange and a business valuation north of £200m.

This experience can be balanced with plenty of other bad examples, of course. But it reinforces the point: deciding on whether to partner and who that partner should be is a crucial decision to make when starting a business.

Chris Barling is Chairman of ecommerce software supplier SellerDeck

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