I have a business partner for my career coaching business, and this was instrumental in having the courage to launch and the persistence to keep pressing through the challenging start-up phase. I often hear from solo entrepreneurs that they too wish they had a partner. But you don’t need to have a formal business partner to get the camaraderie, support, and additional perspective a partner brings. Here are five alternatives to a formal partnership:
If you want to brainstorm, get additional expertise, or hear an outside perspective, try a Professional Association or Mastermind Group.
Many professional associations offer regular meetings, contacts to other members, and newsletters with trends and tips. In a Mastermind Group, you meet regularly with like-minded people all working towards a similar goal (e.g., growing a business). I’ve spent thousands of dollars on masterminds and other business associations.
If you feel lonely working solo, consider a Co-working Space
In these shared offices, you work side-by-side, so you have the personal contact without having to share professional objectives. Some spaces focus on people in similar industries or with similar objectives, and new ideas, connections, or other business benefits may arise serendipitously.
If you need to tackle a big project or client, take on a Strategic Partner
Partnering strategically on a single project or client gives you a chance to try out working side-by-side with someone. It enables you to grow when needed, but not be wedded to a new structure. It gives you the flexibility to pick and choose who might complement your skills and expertise as needed. I promote our Associate Coaches and also collaborate with them on podcasts, presentations and client projects.
If you want to maintain momentum, get an Accountability Partner
Unlike a Strategic Partner or a Mastermind Group, where you’re looking for specific expertise, your Accountability Partner is just someone who will keep you on track. My daughters are my accountability partners for my healthy eating goal, when I reach for something sugary. They aren’t wellness experts and don’t need to be – they are just vigilant and willing to support me.
If you want someone along the way as your needs change, bring on a Coach or Advisory Board
You will probably need all of the above – outside perspective, camaraderie, complementary skills and accountability – at different points in your business. Hiring a coach or putting together an advisory board means you have people dedicated specifically to you, as your needs inevitably change over time.
As an entrepreneur, I use all of the above, in addition to a formal partnership for one of my businesses. I pick a support system most helpful to how I work and to my goal at the time. There isn’t only one way to work effectively. Take advantage of the many options readily available and mix and match to suit your needs.
A version of this post originally appears in my Leadership column for Forbes.com.