Ask Pamela: Should I hire a partner?

“Ask Pamela” is a collection of real life conversations between Pamela Hawley, an established social entrepreneur, and Mike Del Ponte, an up-and-coming social entrepreneur. Pamela was a co-founder of VolunteerMatch and is the founder and CEO of UniversalGiving. Mike Del Ponte is founder and CEO of Sparkseed.

Pamela, I have an idea I’m passionate about, but it seems like there are just not enough hours in the day to implement it. I’m trying to raise funds so I can bring on a full-time partner to help me. What do you think about this? <3:58pm, February 4, 2009>

Mike, first of all, you are doing a great job. You have one of the most critical elements of success: A sincere desire, and relentless passion to turn your initiative into reality. I can hear it in your voice how important this is to you, and that’s the first necessary ingredient to leadership, your passion and commitment.  I can also hear that your motives are good. You feel this is the best way to use your life to change the world.  So do take a moment to give yourself credit for having gotten this far.

On building a team, you mentioned hiring a partner right now.  I am not sure you can always hire a partner immediately.  Remember, partners are special.  Sometimes you can; sometimes they are developed over the course of your career.

Many times you meet partners in the stream of life. They might start out slower with you, and then grow into that role.   Hiring a partner — a true strategic or operational  partner — is usually best based on people with whom you have had a strong track record and experiences.  It’s so important because you can usually work out some of the day-to-day kinks in how you work together. Ensure that your values are synergistic, and ensure that your skills are truly complementary (and not just on paper).  Hiring the wrong partner could sap your energy, so beware.   But do know that finding and maintaining the right partner takes time and is special.

What you can do to get started, which doesn’t require waiting on funding — is get interns involved. They can be paid or unpaid. Regardless of your decision of hiring a partner, they will be necessary to have on an ongoing basis, especially as your operational needs increase. I’d make this part of your immediate and ongoing strategy.  People want to be involved with your movement, Mike. They agree with your passion.  They want the experience.  And as you get these interns involved, they could be converted to more substantial team members, with proven execution, over the longterm.

So even if you don’t have the funding now, that doesn’t mean you are held back. You can begin building your team now.

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