One of the biggest business steps you’ll ever take is adding the second person to your one-person business. Especially if that second person is a partner, co-founder or investor, the difference can be like night and day.

After that, it’s never fully your business again.

This is a lot like the little girl with the curl on her forehead (when she was good, she was very, very good, and when she was bad, she was horrid–an old English rhyme). When they work out well, teams make businesses. But opening up to that next person also means you’ll never make another decision by yourself. You’re part of the team. You’re a player.

In most cases it’s a difficult decision, but one based on fairly obvious questions: Do you want to grow the business? Are you willing to take the risk? How will you feel if you try and fail? Can you share the work, the decisions and the company?

There are rare cases of great one-person businesses. It happens. But usually growth takes people working in teams.

There’s paradox here: On one hand, you want to partner up with people different from you, whose skills fill your gaps and make the company broader. You want different skills and different backgrounds. On the other hand, it’s generally easier to get along with people similar to you. You’ll talk about “fit,” and think about things like working habits, style and compatibility.

Don’t think majority ownership eliminates potential problems, so that you stay in charge. It doesn’t. Minority owners have rights.

And don’t think making people employees instead of partners eliminates potential problems. You’ve started a community, and even though you’re signing all the checks, you’re not alone: You’re the leader of a community. Things have changed. If you don’t care about the other people, there’s no team. And once you care, you’re no longer making decisions alone.

I’m not saying that the one-person business is better. I am saying that the step of going from one to two is crucial.

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Tim BerryTim Berry
Tim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.