In many ways, a business partnership is every bit as important as choosing who you will marry. As with marriage, many of the best business arrangements begin with a blissful and carefree honeymoon phase which dissolves into toxic behaviors, the blame game and an expensive and costly legal proceeding.
To choose the best possible business partner, be open to asking a lot of questions.
Here are some of the most important ones to consider:
1. What do I need from a business partner?
You need to choose a business partner who compliments you and adds value to what you are seeking to achieve. You do not need a best friend or someone who will agree with everything you want. You should seek a partnership that will allow you to be and achieve more together.
2. What is your potential partner’s financial situation?
Getting a clear financial picture is extremely important. You need to know if your partner will be able to match the financial contributions you are making. If they cannot, you at the very least want to know what financial burdens or commitments they are already facing before you decide to share to leverage your capital on a shared plan.
3. What are the potential partner’s expectations on the time involved?
You definitely do not need to work as much as your partner but it is important to be on the same page when it comes to how time will be devoted to your new venture. The more you find out about this, the better prepared you will be when things get tough and you really need to hustle to make things happen.
4. Is your potential partner’s commitment to the business as strong as yours?
There is no reason to side with a partner who is not going to be as committed to a shared vision as you are. Choose someone who will be with you for the long haul and who can commit the same energy that you can. If they cannot, make sure they offer a unique strategic advantage which otherwise could not be matched by another candidate. It’s better to wait to choose the right person then to choose the wrong one.
5. Is there something in your potential partner’s family life that might make the business a secondary interest?
Are they just starting a family? Is there spouse considering a move to another state to follow a job? The answers to questions like these will be extremely useful in making the decision to choose a partner. There is nothing wrong with any answer one might get to these questions but as with many things in business, the more you know, the better off you will be.
6. How would he or she handle a tough situation?
You want to choose a partner who has a character that you can trust and confide in. It is very important to know how they handle tough situations and ethical quandaries as they arise. Someone who is willing to break laws might be willing to break their obligations to you.
7. What questions do they have for me?
You would hold that a potential business partner will be asking themselves and you the same tough questions that you are considering. If they are not, this could be an indication that they really aren’t as interested or invested in future success as you are.
8. What is the potential partner’s standing in the community?
Make sure you get the whole picture. Confirm the finances they purport to have, speak with their former employers and employees. Get a good assessment of their overall character.
9. Are they willing to put everything in writing?
A handshake is great but it’s not a legally binding document which can help to prove your point should things go awry. If you partner is unwilling to commit the arrangement to writing this could be a huge red flag.
10. Do I really need a partner?
If you don’t have capital or are trying to create something totally new, choosing a partner may be necessary. It is really important to ask yourself this question and make sure you give a straight answer. A business partner needs to be someone who you can trust and rely on. They should be a teammate and an ally. Why are you seeking to align with anyone? What do you hope to achieve with this?