I've often tried to understand what the defining reasons could be for either of the above approaches and have not really been able to arrive at a conclusive answer but that probably means you can stop reading right now, isn't it?
My reasons for this debate are based on some personal experience too. You see, each of us are wired differently. And we often take decisions based on 'circumstance' instead of 'what's best for us'.
Maverick and independent thinkers make pretty poor partners. (Have I hurt any sentiments here?) I've seen that happen a few times. I am sure there are exceptions to the rule but in that case, there needs to be clear demarcation of roles and responsibilities and the mutual respect to appreciate the other person's skill set and experience. This is pretty much what makes a good partnership with such folks work.
So, let me highlight 6 insights (purely from my personal experience and understanding) on when to or not to go in for a partnership.
1. If you created the idea, do it alone - or should you? So, you have this brilliant business idea that can potentially work. You have a full blooded business preamble that you've created and know fully well that the idea will work. Why look for a partner in that case? It is one thing to have someone serve the purpose of a sounding board but another to have a partner on board for a vision only you have at this stage. Be sure before you get to the next stage in this process. Till you hear "Yes, I am pretty sure I need to have someone on board to make this work because I know it can", don't do it. A copywriter joining hands with an art director is a workable partnership. An ideator joining hands with a software engineer. See how these are complementing?
2. If you are both good at the same thing, you're probably better off doing it alone
What use is it if two people have the exact same skill sets and are forming a startup partnership? It is only a question of 'when' that falls apart and one has a 'better' idea than the other. Instead, if you partner with someone who has a completely complementary approach and skill set that covers bases that you don't cover, the arrangement potentially has a longer shelf life.
3. So is he a partner or an investor?
Look at this as a marriage with far more complexities that require a good amount of thinking before you jump in. If you're the sort of person that believes in 'love at first sight' and actually marry that person within a week, you're better of thinking about whether this is the person you absolutely, truly, really want as a partner and review that in a few weeks before you make a decision. Let someone's curiosity and interest in your idea grow to the point where you can start to see that twinkle in his or her eye too about the concept. And if your potential partner is of a legal or financial background and is there to ask the questions, don't expect the twinkle, expect the questions which is what you 'really' need.
On the other hand, if you are looking for an investor who is in it for the return on investment, make sure you have the quantitative AND qualitative muscle coupled with a precise plan to deliver on your idea. Investors don't care about the fluff. In fact they spend the first few minutes waiting for you to stop talking and when they hear something to do with return on investment or profitability, they open their ears and wait for you to instinctively fall back on the fluff which is precisely the point where you could tip over to being referred to as a 'gas bag' or a 'potential achiever'. That choice is unfortunately not entirely yours. It is your ability to focus on exactness than assumptions and isolate gibberish that fills the English language with meaninglessness.
An investor might bring in the money immediately but it is also an animal you don't know how to tame. Understand the difference between an investor and a money lender for short term gains with no intention of being an 'integral' part of your growth plan. It is easy money: long term repentance. Much like an exta-marital affair; where the excitement is great but the consequences, devastating (in many cases).
So make sure you know why you want someone with you. Is it someone who can hold your hands or instead squeeze something else?
4. Learn to listen
You see, good marketers and ideators have already seen something way ahead of its time. They've seen the Lord of the Rings trilogy in their heads while reading the book only to corroborate their version of what happened with what Peter Jackson put together with the trilogy of movies. These ideators are way ahead of the curve with their thought process but have very little ability to listen. It doesn't come to them instinctively. It is a skill they have to work very hard at understanding, leave alone developing. However, once they do develop that skill, they are almost invincible. This is when a partnership can potentially work. An ideator and creator with the ability to listen to advice and understand different perspectives makes for a successful combination of talents.
5. Spend time together...before you get into bed
Just like in any partnership, the quality of time you spend with the other person will help define the quality of your partnership. There are partnerships of convenience that have been extremely successful from time to time. It is like this; you choose a job, you hate the people around you, the way they speak, the way they act, the way they talk, their morality quotient, their approach to people around them; you want to leave. You actually CAN. Partnerships aren't that easy to leave behind. You need to develop a sense of tolerance and acceptance and you need to understand that it won't always be about your ideas only. All of that comes when people spend time together. Personally, I've seen people jump deep into arrangements without thinking things through. A few months later, their relationship is in the toilet. Which takes me to my next point...
6. Friend or Partner OR Partner then friend
A lot of folks think that they can work partnerships with friends just because one discussion over a few ideas led to a few new ideas. I don't say that doing business with friends cannot work but in more cases than one, I've seen the lack of maturity in understanding the difference between friendship and partnerships ruin the relationship altogether. Many folks unfortunately don't understand this ability to compartmentalize. I have to be honest here and admit that there isn't a defining rule with this one but what I can say is that a level of empathy, commitment that is equal coupled with the ability to listen can make a massive difference. A partner who goes on to become a friend over time has a deep sense of value and in my view is the recipe for great brand and business success.
Be it solo or a partnership, the quality of your vision both short and long term can be decisive in how your business performs over time. Ensure you make your decision based on 'what the business needs' and not the 'circumstance' you are in.