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Build an Ecosystem of Finance, People, and Know-How: The Key Behaviors of Entrepreneurs, Part 3

Note: this post is part three of a six-part series on essential behaviors of entrepreneurs, as identified by Ernst & Young in the survey “Nature or Nurture? Decoding the DNA of the entrepreneur.” Read a summary of the report here. And be sure to check out parts one and two.

One of the most influential partnerships in hip-hop began because two guys met at a club. Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin were introduced by a mutual friend one night, and they ended up joining forces to create Def Jam Recordings, the label that introduced the world to legendary acts including LL Cool J, the Beastie Boys, and Public Enemy.

The third of six behaviors exhibited by successful entrepreneurs, according to Ernst & Young, is to “build an ecosystem of finance, people, and know-how.” The authors point out that all entrepreneurs will face obstacles, particularly when it comes to getting financing, skills, and knowledge. In order to overcome these challenges, entrepreneurs benefit immensely from partnering with people who have different strengths.

Rick Rubin was a producer with an ear for new talent. Russell Simmons was a club promoter and artist manager. Rubin was in the punk-rock scene; Simmons was in the hip-hop scene. But by combining their contrasting skills and backgrounds, they were able to create an incredibly successful music label that neither would have been able to make alone.

“Partnerships allow you to have a continuous dialog with someone at your own level, which is extraordinarily fruitful and helps companies grow,” said Arnaud Vaissié, CEO of International SOS and one of the leading entrepreneurs interviewed by E&Y for the survey. “And the best combination is a mix of skill sets. If you’re an engineer, find a business guy. If you’re a scientist, find a business guy. If you’re a business guy, find an expert. That increases the chances of survival dramatically.”

You probably won’t be lucky enough to meet your ideal business partner at a party. So how do you go about finding the right person? Start by evaluating yourself. Before you can find someone with complementary skills, you have to know what your own strengths and weaknesses are. You can find free personality tests and skills tests online, but their dependability is not guaranteed. You may want to invest in a reputable evaluation system; Strengths Finder 2.0 is a perennial bestseller.

Once you have a clear picture of yourself, you can start looking for someone who rounds out your edges. Start with people you already know; having an established relationship may help you build your business faster. If you don’t know anyone you want to partner with, you need to start networking. Tell all of your friends what kind of person you’re looking for, join a networking group, search through LinkedIn—really put it out there.

Don’t be afraid to be picky. You’ll be working closely with your partner for long hours under stressful conditions, and this will be a lot less fun if you can’t stand each other. The goal is to have enough disagreement to stimulate creativity, but not so much conflict that you can’t get anything done. It’s a delicate balance to achieve, but when the partnership is right, it can have incredible results.

When Simmons and Rubin started Def Jam, they were working out of Rubin’s dorm room at NYU. By the time they moved on to other things, they were both multi-millionaires. Their partnership was much more than the sum of its parts, and when you find the right person to collaborate with, your partnership will be, too.

Related Posts

Be the Architect of Your Own Vision: The Key Behaviors of Entrepreneurs, Part 2
Drive, Tenacity, Persistence: The Key Behaviors of Entrepreneurs, Part 1
Corporations are people – but are they good people?
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