Dan Johnson writes:

Many business partnerships are born out of existing relationships, both personal and professional. It could be a family member, a work colleague or a friend. If this is the case then chances are you will know the person well enough to trust them and also know enough about their background and personal circumstances to know if they are a good person to go into business with.

If, on the other hand you are entering into, or looking for, a business partner from outside your social or business circle then it pays to have some idea of what to look out for when determining whether or not they would make a good partner. Even if you know them it is still a good idea to run through a checklist just to make sure.

They are not exhaustive and every situation is unique, but some basic principles still apply, whatever your business idea or plan.

1. Trust

This is possibly the most important thing in any partnership, business or otherwise. Without genuine trust in your partner you will be constantly looking over your shoulder to se what they are doing and how they are doing it. This will make it impossible to focus on your business and will compromise any chance you have of success. To establish trust you need to be honest with each other about your financial and personal circumstances. If you or your business partner have personal problems that could distract you from being able to focus 100% on the new business then it’s only fair to let each other know from the start. It may be that they or you can be sympathetic, after all we all have problems, but it’s best to be up-front about it.

Similarly with financial problems, if either partner is in financial difficulty, CCJs, IVAs, bankruptcy or poor credit history then this can compromise the business should you require finance or credit – and you don’t want to get 6 months down the road before you realize that there is a problem.

Also look for someone who has good business ethics and working practices, this way you know that you can trust them with your reputation and money.

2. Vision

Finding someone with equal drive and motivation is vital to success. You both need to aspire to the same thing, have the same energy and commitment and most importantly of all be willing to work equally hard as a partnership.

That’s not to say that you want someone exactly the same as you; you need someone who has their own opinions and ideas so you can get a different perspective on things. This will make the business experience more creative and fluid and help to make the company better adjusted to changes in the market.

3. Communication

Without good communication the business is doomed. Not being aware of things that can effect the company, like customer needs and problems, cashflow, orders, etc, can mean that the business could be in trouble and you wouldn’t know about it until it was too late. The ability to communicate the good and the bad, the successes and the failures to each other is crucial.

Good communication is also important when it comes to airing your views. If there is something that you or your business partner are unhappy with, then it is important to feel comfortable in being able to express it, rather than bottling it up until it become an insurmountable issue.

One of the great things about being in business today is modern communication: technology, with smartphones, tablets, etc, mean it has never been easier to communicate with one another – so there is really no excuse for not keeping your business partner informed.

4. Complementary

Complementary doesn’t mean the same: if you both have identical skill sets then there is very little point in being in partnership. No one is good at everything. If you are good in front of customers but not so great at the financial side of the business consider a partner who can bring these skills to the business.

The more individual and unique skills you and your partner can bring to the business the easier it will be to get going, plan, run and grow your business. When skills are complementary then the business is much richer and more creative as you will have the benefit of healthy debate that comes from differing points of view.

5. Compatibility

Whilst you don’t want to be the same you do need to be compatible; you need to be able to work together well and feel that you are comfortable with them in terms of personality.

It’s not that you want them to be your best friend but you do need to get along and feel comfortable with one another other as you will more than likely be spending a lot of time together. If you don’t like them personally, or if they have habits that annoy you then working with them is going to be difficult and stressful, which ultimately is not good for business.

6. Respect

Without respect, at least on a professional level, it will be very difficult to view the partnership as equal and therefore impossible to take the other person’s opinions or efforts seriously. The respect has to be mutual as neither one of you will want to work in an environment for very long that makes you feel inferior as this can breed resentment and will ultimately cause the partnership to fail.

After all, the main reason for a partnership is the forming of a team to achieve success and teams always work best when they respect each other.

As we said this is not an exhaustive list and every business will have its own challenges and needs, but starting out with trust, vision, good communication, complementary skills and with someone who is compatible and who you respect is a very good basis for a strong partnership.


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