OtherEkaterina Walter on the Myth of the Lone Inventor

Steve Jobs
Photo by Matthew Yohe (cc).

This post is brought to you by Ekaterina Walter, an internationally acclaimed business and marketing innovator. As the keynote speaker for OEN’s upcoming Angel Oregon Showcase, she will be discussing the five myths of innovation. Here, she outlines one:  

One of the myths of successful entrepreneurship is a myth of a lone inventor. One person, somewhere in his/her mother’s garage in Silicon Valley, creating something extraordinary… the truth is there is no such thing as a self-made man.

We are all made of thousands of others. Any entrepreneur who succeeded did so because they had a solid network of partners.

Just as we seek the right partners in our personal lives, we often also look for partners to help us start and grow our business.  Working with a business partner can drastically change the dynamics of running your business. The right business partner can multiply your chances of success; the wrong partner bring your venture to its knees.

The truth is there is no such thing as a self-made man.” (Tweet this.)

There are any number of good reasons to partner up:  a need to share the workload, balancing out skills, a desire to co-create with others vs. doing it alone, and splitting the financial burden.

There are also some pretty bad reasons to start a partnership: working with someone because you’re afraid to hurt their feelings or because you feel badly about your spouse or a friend being left out, or because you want someone next to you to praise your ideas (as opposed to providing constructive feedback). I’ve witnessed a number of friends partner with others for all the wrong reasons, and it only led to disappointment and sometimes long legal battles.

It is not easy to find the right partner. The most vibrant and fulfilling partnerships are based on a set of philosophies that partners agree upon. In my book, “Think Like Zuck,” I outline seven things to consider when looking for a the right partner:

1. Clear expectations.
Partners need to be clear about their expectations of each other and about the benefits they expect to get out of the partnership. Honesty is critical here.

2. Shared values and vision.
If partners have different goals, the business can’t grow successfully. If one is planning on international expansion and the other wants the business to stay local, the differences in vision might lead to partners sabotaging each other. If they disagree on personal values like punctuality or philanthropy, that will have a negative impact on the business as well.

3. Mutual trust.
A strong partnership is based on mutual trust; it seeks to maximize the happiness and accomplishments of all parties involved.  If mistakes are made, partners have to support each other in correcting those mistakes and guiding the business to a better place.

4. Fair exchange of value.
Partners have to contribute equal amounts of value for a partnership to survive, including financial resources, a strong business network and connections, client lists, credentials, expertise, time, etc. Partners can work together on evaluating new ideas and business plans, offering their diverse perspectives on potential flaws; they can help each other better their ideas and shape a common vision.

5. Complementary strengths.
No single person is a master of all things. The more diverse skills each partner brings to the table, the easier it will be to start, build, grow, and run your enterprise. For that fit to happen, each partner has to recognize his or her own shortcomings and weaknesses.

6. Commitment.
From the start, partners need to communicate their level of commitment to the venture so that there is no animosity if one contributes less than another. Ideally, every partner is a self-motivated individual and each holds the other accountable, which ensures that they are continuously moving forward.

7. Mutual respect.
Partners need to have mutual respect for one another, which keeps them open to constructive criticism. Establishing equality early on allows them to accept each other’s opinions, feedback, and ideas. Equality means that each person’s thoughts, views, and beliefs are held valuable.

 Curious about the other four myths of innovation? Register now for OEN’s Angel Oregon Showcase to hear more from Ekaterina! 

Ekaterina Walter, Keynote for OEN's Spring 2015 Angel Oregon ShowcaseEkaterina Walter is a business and marketing innovator, international speaker, an author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller “Think Like Zuck” and co-author of “The Power of Visual Storytelling.” Her thought leadership has been featured on CNBC, ABC, NBC, FOX News, Forbes, TechCrunch, CNN, WSJ, Inc., and more. www.ekaterinawalter.com



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