Is entrepreneurship a trip best travelled alone?

Every so often, an entrepreneurial endeavour will be a collective effort – from idea to execution – resulting in a business being built around a partnership of complete equal ownership and responsibility. More commonly, however, an idea will sprout from a single individual who, upon cultivating the concept and embarking on their entrepreneurial journey, must decide whether they want – or need – a business partner to join them.

Christo Botes, spokesperson for the 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year competition sponsored by Sanlam and Business Partners, says that the decision of whether or not to take on a partner is an important one that should not be taken lightly. “There are definitely pros and cons to both approaches, but one thing is for sure – deciding whether or not to take on a business partner is one of the most critical decisions an entrepreneur will ever make with regards to their business.”

The prospect of starting and running a business solo has some obvious appeal, says Botes. “Deciding to go it alone will, for starters, allows an entrepreneur to have full control over their business, requiring no input from anyone else along the way. This autonomy, of course, also results in claiming all profits, as well as credit, for any success achieved in the business over time.”

That said, starting and running a business solo isn’t for everyone, Botes warns. “Just as working alone allows one person to reap all the rewards, it also means that the risk of failure and full liability falls squarely on that one person’s shoulders. Having a partner will invariably spread the risk, as additional sources of cash flow can be introduced and one person won’t have to bear the responsibility alone if the business doesn’t work out as planned.”

Chanette Goosen, co-owner of Rush Extreme Sports and 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year finalist, says that in addition to financial support, a partner can also bring untold psychological support to what can, at times, be a very overwhelming experience. “There comes a point when a business grows beyond what you can handle, and, at this point, you need to acknowledge that two brains are better than one – so long as there is a shared passion and a common goal.”

For Goosen, going into business with a partner – her husband – was not something she had planned, but rather something that happened organically. “We come from two very different backgrounds and once we started building our future together, we realised that our passions for life flowed as one, and our journey of finding niche things and servicing the human need became our driving point.”

However, just as important as knowing when the time is right to get a partner involved, is knowing when it isn’t. Johan Eksteen, MD of Agricon and overall 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year winner, speaks of how he was approached with the prospect of a private equity partnership, but decided against it. “I was offered a deal to sell 50% of my shares in Agricon to a large private equity investment firm. This deal was not accepted as I saw more opportunity in other approaches.”

Botes concludes that while the best mode of approach will vary depending on the type, size and stage of the business, it also largely comes down to personal preference. “Deciding whether or not to take on a partner is a decision that carries both economical and emotional ramifications. Not only can the business’s future prosperity depend on it, but it can also impact on your future happiness. It is therefore essential that, when making a decision of this magnitude, an entrepreneur considers all aspects of their business, as well as personal attitudes, to ensure they end up with an approach that is right for them and their business venture.”