Zones of genius: How to choose the best business partner for you

Social entrepreneur Miki Agrawal explains what makes a perfect business partner.

Miki Agrawal: So when you’re looking at bringing partners on, whether it’s investment partners, whether it’s business partners, like cofounder perspective, those kinds of things—Number one, it needs to be the same values. Do you both care about similar things in the world? So values need to align.

And then from a skill set perspective, you need to be opposites. Oftentimes best friends are like, “We want to start a business together!” That’s like the fastest way to not becoming best friends again. Being opposites is so important. I’m great at design. I’m great with the vision. I’m great at sort of the strategy. I’m really great at the aesthetic. I’m really great at the brand.

My partner needs to be great at operations, manufacturing, warehousing, legal, finance, all of that stuff that I don’t love. Can I do it? A little, but I prefer not to. I’d rather stay in my zone of genius and have someone really, really take on their zone of genius, and be in mutual awe of one another. Like I really believe that there is that yin and yang that does exist.

Like if I have yang energy someone needs to have yin energy to be a real perfect partner.

I think to have the right partner energetically you need to be a match and skill set wise you need to be a match. So yin yang like energetically and then yin yang from a skill set perspective.

We often like, we’re like: “Both of us are super hyper!” Even if you have other like skill sets than I do, that hyper-hyper-hyper might not work.

And if it’s hype-calm, like the calm counterpart calms me down. My hyperactiveness makes them more excited. So that energetically works.

When from a skillset perspective, “I’m great at this, he or she is great at this,” we’re in mutual awe of each other both energetically and from a skill set perspective. That is the perfect partner.

So I sit on the board of Conscious Capitalism and I think Conscious Capitalism is really based on a stakeholder model. Like every single person has to win, and I think in the past I was a little bit sloppy in a stakeholder model in that we scaled so quickly, “just put butts in seats fast.” I didn’t really think about a lot of things as you’re scaling, which happens to most entrepreneurs, and I think now it really is with Tushy I’m really, really deliberate about the type of people I bring onto the team: really checking their background to see if they really fit.

Before anyone gets hired they have to meet the whole team and the team has to give me their feedback on what they think about this person, if they jive well. It really is culture. Culture trumps strategy every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

And in the past I certainly was a lot more sort of lax. “Oh, you have a pulse? Come join, we’re busy. We’ve got to grow.”

And now, “What’s your background? Let me look at your social media,” and if it’s all selfies you know that’s scary! That’s not a great person to have on your team if it’s like selfie from every angle, which means that they might not be a great team player. And so and then calling references, doing background checks. It’s so important to do that and I just didn’t, and I think to really create that culture, to really scale a business requires doing that real work.

And with Tushy I’m so, so deliberate. My new CEO role, I’ve interviewed 50 people for this role to really be that yin to my yang and that opposite to my skill set. And in the past I would have been like “Okay people, let’s go.” And now it’s “50 people? Call all ten references of every one of them,” and really had them meet all the team to make sure that they liked the person. It’s really, really important to do that culture fit test which I didn’t do in the past.

Social entrepreneur Miki Agrawal explains what makes a perfect business partner. It's not usually your best friend. In fact, it may be best to get a partner who is the opposite of you. Miki also shares how she achieves hiring "yin yang" in her own companies.

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