Many small businesses start with one person. You are and do everything. If you don't do it, it doesn't get done. You might truck along that way quite happily. About 2/3 of sole traders have no desire to grow beyond what they can handle personally. Sometimes things change - your product or service might become the latest version of the horse whip - past its use-by date. Then you look at alternatives. Perhaps you do a great job in a growing market. In this case, you have two possibilities. You narrow your focus to service a niche in the market (assuming you don't want to offer sub-par service). Alternatively, you bring in your first extra pair of hands.

This is an exciting opportunity, allowing for significant further growth and providing much-needed relief to a struggling business owner. It is also a hurdle at which many businesses falter - or even fall. Why? People! Look at marriage statistics (especially among business people who tend to be internally motivated and less naturally "compatible") and you'll see a high disaster rate. Business relationships are not exempt from many of the same pressures. And probably the issue common to both sorts of relationships is communication.

This is not the place for a lesson on communication - we assume both parties are clear about their own expectations and open about that with the other. Neither do we get into the procedures for bringing someone with the right personality and skills on board. We rank personality above skills - they can be taught - but that's another subject. These low-level details are vital - but this article focuses on the bigger picture. Where are you (both parties) going in the long term?

Long-term issues may lead either party to modify their plans - but all going well, how do you see things working? If there's no match then there's no long term. But if all goes well, what then?

We suggest you start with the end in view. Typically people don't think about the end of their business until too late. You should think about it from the start, which means everything you do is done with the goal of selling the business at a maximum price. Sometimes you might be hoping to transfer the business to family or others - but although there are some special issues to be considered in such cases, the basics are much the same.

Ideally, your first extra person will share the same long-term direction as you, although typically they will be younger, and therefore have different priorities. That's normal - and you need to cater for these differences. But if they are heading in the same general direction as you, they just could be "the one". And even if they're not, they may still be an effective long-term employee. Replacing employees is expensive - just as getting a new customer is more expensive than keeping an existing one.

This assumes that you bring the person on as an employee. That is in itself a major adjustment - complying with pay, health and safety, training, planning, communication and various other requirements. But sometimes there are other options. For example, you may bring in the other person as a partner / shareholder from day one. That greatly increases your risk - but may offer more opportunities. To reduce the risk, the same procedures apply - just over a much-reduced timescale.

The key is to select a person who will be a good fit with you. This does not mean a person like you. In many ways the more different they are, the better. For example, businesses require two people as well as the "technician": internally motivated / entrepreneur and externally motivated / manager. Now you can do well regardless - but as long as you recognise and cater for the differences, you can benefit significantly from using the strengths of these two personalities.

If you want to talk further about this issue, we will at least discuss the general steps you might take. But don't expect instant answers - much of our talk (or email) will be questions.