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Picking the Right Business Partner for your Startup

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A startup can take many forms. Some entrepreneurs hit the ground running with their business school classmates, while others may go solo. The majority of companies, however, aren’t very successful without at least a co-founder or a small team. Even Apple started with two Steves behind the wheel (Jobs and Wozniak, that is).

The process of picking a business partner can be akin to choosing a future spouse. Here are some tips for measuring that chemistry:

1. Know What You’re Looking For
First of all, do you even need a partner yet? Are you doing just fine freelancing, or running things on your own? A key part of business is only exhausting money or effort when it’s necessary. You might need to first raise some more money or, if the company is doing well, wait until you’re overflowing with clients before getting some help.
Once you get to this point, it’s wise to assess your needs, not what you’d like to have on staff. Do you need a know-it-all who can probably take over the company when you aren’t looking? How about a heckuva nice guy who always buys you a drink at happy hour, but doesn’t know his revenue from his expenses? Truth be told, you likely want to get the best of both worlds. If the skills and personality traits you each possess are depicted as a venn diagram, you definitely want a lot of overlap, but you also don’t want two giant circles right on top of each other.
Some of the best businesses consist of partners who are exact opposites. One may be the brains behind the operation, while the other is better at socializing with clients. Products or services that demand multiple skill sets could require co-founders from different academic backgrounds. For example, creating a piece of music software minimally requires one person with programming skills, and another with music or audio engineering experience.

2. Be a Secret Agent
Some of the most promising candidates might have some secrets hiding behind the curtain (besides, you know what they always say about the quiet ones). It’s important not to let your trusting nature get the best of you when it comes to this big part of your professional (and financial) career. Be sure to conduct background checks, credit checks, and any other research that can ensure a sound hire. If a resumé or interview claims that your potential partner increased sales at their last company by 50%, make sure the company actually exists, and that someone can vouch for those numbers. A good indicator of trouble is finding out about leftover loans, or other money still owed. While a bit of know-how can allow you to search for this information on your own, many turn to third-party agencies to do it instead.

3. Have a Shared Passion
As with any job or project, no one is going to work with you if they don’t feel excited about it. The best-case scenario is finding a partner with not only an affinity for your product, but even some possible ideas for expansion. When you ask for the candidate’s motivations for joining your team, the response should go beyond a listing of skills and experience. A worthy partner will have a desire in their eyes to work with you, or to execute an idea that they feel should have been tried long ago. The events in this person’s life should also allow for them to follow through on their promise. There should be no prior commitments, or a significant amount of days off, to take away from their time at the office. Of course, this list of demands will sometimes require the founder of a company to “fly someone in” from a different city, state or country. At the very least, in cases where most people haven’t even heard of your idea, you may want to offer generous benefits, such as equity in the company. This is already standard practice for most co-founders, anyway.

4. Have it All On Paper
Even when all is said and done, you still need a legal cushion. Some people don’t get a prenuptial agreement, but this is no love affair. It’s important to have every team member sign a contract, a non-disclosure agreement, or any other document that could help you when things go sour. In fact, if your buddy starts to get manipulative at this point and asks if you even like him anymore, it’s probably best to say “Um, I guess not,” and look for someone else. Better to hurt someone’s feelings than your own bank account. And besides, not having those signatures could come back to bite you in the long run.

5. If You Love Something, Let it Go
Over half of marriages in the U.S. will end in divorce, and your business relationships could go the same route. This is not to say, however, that you have to be a jerk about it. It’s okay to trim the fat and hold employees accountable for their performance. It’s not okay to completely alienate someone who could be a future connection, or to scare the bejesus out of the onlookers. This past August, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong fired a staff member, Abel Lenz, in front of the entire crew. On video, no less. Armstrong did later apologize for the public firing, and had a legitimate reason for letting Lenz go, but he also created some unneeded tension in the room. Not to mention, some bad press in the process as well. Especially for a partner, who may have some privileged, unleaked information about the company, it’s best to end the relationship with the least amount of collateral damage possible.

written by Jeremy Rappaport of Fueled.

Callum Connects

Agnes Yee, Legal & Compliance Recruiter of Space Executive

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Agnes Yee started Space Executive in Singapore, which is a hub for businesses in some of the world’s fastest growing economies.

What’s your story?
After graduation, I joined a design media company as a Business Development Executive, during the era when ‘reading a magazine online’ was unheard of. I believe that laid the foundation for being unfazed by rejections.

I fell into recruitment pre-GFC and rode the highs and lows in the early years. A decade later, I decided to set up my own recruitment company, partly because I could. I’m acutely aware of the face that being an Asian female in Singapore is sometimes a privilege, and that many women in the world are living a very different existence.
Thereafter, we joined Space Executive as part of a merger. I am currently the Partner of Space Executive, a recruitment company focused specialist disciplines, including Legal, Finance, Digital, Sales and Marketing and Change. We also run Space Ventures, a venture capital business, which invests in seed and pre-series A businesses.

What excites you most about your industry?
On a daily basis, we’re influencing how one spends a third of their day. It is interesting how the Internet has transformed the industry, and I’m excited to see how we can harness technology to bring us to the next phase of this business.

The VC is an extension of applying our skills and experience in reading people. We very much invest in the people as much as the idea. Being a native Singaporean, it’s been exhilarating watching Southeast Asia becoming a hotbed of ideas; and young entrepreneurs simply daring to dream.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m a born and bred Singaporean. I love that I speak both English and Mandarin, grew up playing with Indian friends and eating Malay food.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore for the low barriers of entry to set up a business, but has to be China (and Hong Kong) for their hunger and constant innovation.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
青春不要留白 which translates to ‘Don’t waste your youth.’

Who inspires you?
Anyone who has gone against the grain.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
It wasn’t recent but reading the article on https://waitbutwhy.com/2015/12/the-tail-end.html never fails to blow my mind how little time we have left. Charting our lives in weeks, and realising I only have enough time left to enjoy 60 Christmas turkeys, read 300 books (all if I’m lucky); and mostly, I’m left with the last 5% of the time that I spend in-person with my parents.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I’m cognisant that every decision I made in life has brought me to where I am today, and I wouldn’t change one thing. But I’d really like to have had more time to travel.

How do you unwind?
Exercise and wine.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Trekking any mountain in Asia. It brings us back to the most basic. To overcome elements of nature and our own mind.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Start with Why, Simon Sinek

Shameless plug for your business:
Space Executive started in Singapore, a hub for businesses in some of the world’s fastest growing economies. We assist organisations in accessing a targeted and specialised, and often times transient talent pool.

Out of Singapore, we have recruited across 14 countries; and have embarked on our global expansion plans with offices in Hong Kong and London this year, and US, Japan and Europe in the following years.

Space Ventures provides funding, management and financial guidance to young businesses with original ideas. We have invested in peer to peer lending platforms, credit scoring, social media education, and other start-ups spanning diverse industries. We are always interested in hearing more about new ideas.

How can people connect with you?
https://www.linkedin.com/in/agnesyee/

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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Callum Connects

Chrystie Dao-Szabo, Founder of iPayMy

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Chrystie Dao-Szabo founded iPaymy for Business – a secure and easy to use
platform enabling SMEs to pay rent, salaries, invoices, and even corporate tax using the credit cards they already have in their wallet today.

What’s your story?
I’m Chrystie Dao-Szabo, and I’ve worked as an international banker for over 22 years. During that time, I travelled through Asia, Australia and Europe, and everywhere I saw how my clients struggled with managing their finances and keeping cash around.

I wanted to use my experience to help them, but I also knew the solution they needed didn’t exist yet. This pushed me to give up on my secure career, and instead look into the innovative world of FinTech for an answer.

This is how I founded iPaymy – at its launch, a platform to help consumers pay their monthly expenses using their credit cards. We’ve grown a lot since, and today, iPaymy for Business is a platform that allows business owners to use their credit cards to pay for rent, salaries, invoices and taxes, freeing up their cash for business-critical operations.

What excites you most about your industry?
What excites me most about FinTech is it’s culture of constant disruption, thanks to cool and innovative products and services coming out every day.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born in Vietnam, grew up in Australia and worked in Asia, Europe and Australia. Being raised by traditional Vietnamese parents meant that deep down I was still an Asian at heart, so I have a strong connection with the region.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore of course. It’s easy to do business, English is the main language, and the infrastructures like public transportation are great. Also, the government supports local innovation in multiple ways, like giving grants for SMEs and FinTechs.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Keep giving, and one day you will receive.

Who inspires you?
My parents. My father had a successful business in Vietnam just before the fall of Saigon in 1975. After the war, my father was sent to a re-education camp for three years, which meant my mum had to bring up two young kids – a 3-year-old, me and my 4-year old brother on her own.

In 1980, we all fled Vietnam on a boat and arrived in Sydney, Australia via refugee camps in Indonesia and Singapore. There, my parents had to start over with nothing to their names and only AUD 50 given to them by the Australian government.
They went on to build several businesses in Australia!

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
The number of young and smart people who have carved out successful careers by founding their own startups (or joining really cool ones). When I was starting out my career, doing any of these was not a viable option; it was either working for an accounting firm, an insurance company or a bank.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
If I were starting out my career now, I would choose the path of joining a startup as you get to learn so much about running a business and how to assemble a winning team.

How do you unwind?
I like travelling to a beach or a resort destination and just relaxing by the pool or beach. I also like to unwind after work with a glass of champagne or wine, and a bowl of truffle fries.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Thailand. I love the people and the spicy Thai food.

Everyone in business should read this book:
The E-Myth. It’s a book series that dismantles common myths about entrepreneurship in different industries.

Shameless plug for your business:
With iPaymy for Business, SMEs can pay rent, salaries, invoices, and even corporate tax using the credit cards they already have in their wallet today. SMEs love iPaymy because it works like a credit card, but pays like cash.

iPaymy’s secure and easy to use platform reliably delivers payments to vendors while freeing up cash and providing access to interest free credit. Forget the delays and aggravations that come with traditional SME financing options. Schedule recurring payments, manage invoices, set payment reminders, and monitor payment status all from one dashboard.

It’s never been easier for SMEs to meet monthly payment obligations while keeping cash available to fuel growth, bridge receivable gaps, and make immediate investment in the supplies, services, and expertise needed to drive a growing business forward.

How can people connect with you?
You can find me on LinkedIn or contact me by email.
My LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chrystiedaoszabo/
My email: [email protected]

Twitter handle?
https://twitter.com/ceedeees

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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