The Process of Choosing a Business Partner
Your business is something you gave birth to and will have to nurture to help it grow. You want a partner that will approach your business with the same level of enthusiasm and commitment that you have, but who also shares the same business "parenting" philosophies.
It is wise to approach finding a business partner as seriously as you would a combination spouse/daycare provider. A partnership is a long-term, legal covenant between two (or more) people. You will spend a lot of time planning major business events with your partner and need to be able to get along with him/her.
Find a Partner That Can Bring Skills and Experience to the Business
A good business partner should have skills that support and compliment your own. No single person is a master of all things business. If you have great interpersonal skills but poor business finance skills, consider a partner who understands business accounting. The more skills you and your partner bring to the business together the easier it will be to start, plan, grow, and run your business.
Find a Partner That Shares Your Values, Entrepreneurial Spirit, and Vision
Of all the things to look for in a partner, this is probably the most important. You will need to be able to communicate effectively with your partner to make decisions, set goals, and drive the business forward. If you partner with someone that is reluctant, combative, or unable to consider your viewpoint it will be harder to be successful.
Look for a Partner Without a Lot of Personal Baggage
If your partner has serious challenges in his/her personal life, it may carry over into the business. It is nice to be willing to give someone a chance, but running a small business takes focus, time, and tremendous energy. If your partner is dealing with one personal crisis after another, you may find yourself carrying the weight of the business.
Find a Partner That Can Offer Resources and Credibility to Your Business
It is great to have a business partner that has financial resources, but there are other contributions a partner can bring to the business that can be just as valuable. A partner with a secure business network, industry connections, client list, or specific credentials and expertise can also increase the value of your business and improve your chances of achieving long-term success.
Choose a Partner That Is Financially Stable
Whether or not your partner contributes financially to the business is less important than if your potential partner is in dire financial straits. Someone in the middle of a financial crisis may not be the best choice to go into business with for a variety of reasons.
Money, asset, and time management skills are critical for small business entrepreneurs, and someone who has grossly mismanaged their personal or business finances may not have the skills or discipline to make a business partnership work. Worst case scenario, they may even look for ways to steal from your business to solve personal financial problems.
Choose a Partner That Practices Good Personal and Business Ethics
Only enter into partnerships with someone you can trust. Look for someone who values honesty and practices good personal and business ethics. A poorly chosen business partner may end up stealing from the company, taking your ideas or clients to start their own business, or breaking laws that could get your business into legal trouble.
Respect Is a Necessary Element to Forming a Successful Partnership
You should never partner with someone that you do not respect. The main purpose of forming a partnership is to achieve success as a team. You may not value the opinion and efforts of someone you do not respect at least on a professional level. You also want to partner with someone that will show you respect as a partner, business professional, and as the founder of your business.
Plan Ahead Just in Case You "Break up" With Your Business Partner
Remember that partnerships are legal bonds, if they go wrong, the "breakup" can also go bad. If for no other reason, no matter who you choose to partner with in business, be sure to get all business agreements in writing. Misunderstandings over money and entrepreneurial vision can ruin even the best of friendships and other personal relationships.