A few weeks ago, I had a catch-up session with a mentee of mine. He was telling me how he had listed “being a solo-preneur” as a weakness in his pitch to potential investors, and that one of the coaches he had during that pitch-event, told him that being a solo-preneur is not necessarily a disadvantage. Yes, it helps to have someone who you can brainstorm ideas with, split work with and “lean on” along your business journey. Like anything in life, there are pros and cons to everything and as someone going into business, you shouldn’t let the fact that you don’t have a business partner be a hindrance or view it as a disadvantage. Focus on the advantages of going solo and be aware of the risks of not having a business partner and then have back-up plans to manage all possible downsides.
I’m a solo-preneur and have been operating solo for six years. Last year I spent a significant amount of time wishing, thinking, scoping for a business partner – instead of sitting down and understanding why I felt the need to bring in a partner, and take action and close the gaps that I thought a business partner would solve. I’ve had a business partner before, and that didn’t turn out well. I really enjoyed having someone to build and grow the business with but unfortunately, a few months into our venture, we realised that we weren’t a fit, and like a relationship where proper courting was not done, we dissolved our business and went our separate ways.
So, let’s understand why I suddenly felt a need for a business partner last year:
- I felt lonely,
- I needed to brainstorm ideas with someone,
- I felt I needed someone to be accountable to,
- I was approached by a potential investor and got side-tracked from my key goal. (ps: I wasn’t looking for an investor when they came along)
With hindsight, I was stuck, and instead of doing the deep work to understand why I was stuck, I got distracted and decided to “search” for a partner. As you can guess, I never did find that business partner, and I’m still operating “solo”. I did find ways to close the gaps I had identified and those that still exist – well I don’t think having a business partner would have been the best solution.
So, what did I do?
- I reconnected with a friend and fellow solo-preneur and got involved in an initiative to support female founders “Founder Nation” (Lesson: have a network you can lean on, and if it doesn’t exist, create one.)
- I started with a coach, who was able to hold me accountable to my goals. (Coaching is one of the fastest growing careers, and you shouldn’t struggle to find one. We all need a coach or mentor.)
- I read the 4-hour work week by Tim Ferris. (What can I say, this book made me see a lot of blind spots in the ways I chose to operate. I was able to extract some valuable lessons that I could reapply in my life and business.)
- I reached out to a few smart people who have strong knowledge in the areas I was struggling with. My sister helped me with developing a monitoring and evaluation strategy and a very good friend allowed me to bounce off a few ideas with her, and she gave me some invaluable advice.
- I collaborated with another organization to bring in a skill I needed in the business which I would not have been able to afford if I had had to employ the person full time.
- I brought in a few freelancers to work in areas I didn’t have strength in – a creative strategist, a podcaster and a production assistant.
- I realised I was under-utilizing the knowledge of some my service providers, and when I was stuck, I called them for advice or help.
Not all recommended ways of doing things work for everyone. Our situations and environmental contexts are different. So yeah, having a business partner can be a bonus in your entrepreneurial journey, but when you stop looking at the word partnership “figuratively” you’ll realise that you have a lot of partners out there and there are millions of entrepreneurs and business owners who are hugely successful in their solo business journeys.
Founder of Matoyana Business Solutions and Matoyana Media and Creator of the Warrior Women Series
Matoyana Media is a subsidiary of Matoyana Business Solutions;an entrepreneurship development consultancy based in Johannesburg.We produce content for creatives, freelancers and small business owners to inspire & empower them to grow and thrive.