Will You Be My Business Partner?

Going into business with a partner is a lot like marriage. Finding the right business partner is just like dating. The last thing you ever want to do is jump into a financially committed “relationship” with someone you don’t know well. I’ve made that mistake more than once, and it can be devastating financially and emotionally.

Business partners are going to go through a lot together. That’s just the nature of business. The partnership will be tried, tested, stretched, pulled and stressed to the limit. Therefore, compatibility on multiple levels is crucial. Partners should be comparable in reliability, intelligence, financial stability and character. Those are the four big ones I’d focus on, but there are many more.

Don’t let the excitement of starting a new business cloud your judgment when considering a partner. I’ve seen many people make fatal decisions because of hope and inexperience.

Here are a few pointers for finding and maintaining a good partnership:

  • Family members don’t make good business partners. We’ve all heard it, but most of us ignored it until it was too late.
  • Make sure the risk is split fairly between partners. Financially lopsided partnerships experience even more pressure.
  • Don’t be afraid to run a background check. If I had done that with my very first partner, I would have saved myself a fortune.
  • Ask around town. A person’s reputation can tell a lot about them.
  • Clearly state the goals, duties and expectations of each partner (in writing!) before commencement of the business.
  • Create a strategy to maintain high levels of communication and interaction between the partners. Weekly or even daily meetings are a must.
  • Maintain non-business interactions as well. Periodic dinners and recreational events are great ways to ease any tension that may be present.

Remember that good partnerships can be beautiful while bad partnerships can be ugly and life altering. So tread carefully, don’t rush into things and always trust your intuition. You wouldn’t marry a stranger (I hope!), nor would you enter into one of the most important business relationships of your life without doing your due diligence. This is probaly the most important advice I could ever offer an entrepreneur.

(You can also find this article at MoreThanMary.com as well as more very helpful articles on life, fashion, fitness and travel.)

4 Comments

  1. Sunny Wang   •  

    I couldn’t agree with you any more. I have been there a few times. One thing you have to keep in mind that you have to make sure that your partner is as hungry, driven as you are. Stay away from people who give up easily. They are waste of time and it’s a blow to your confidence at the same time.

    Good stuff Mike! Keep it up!

  2. Mike Mulhall   •  

    Thanks Sunny…and that’s great advice as well!

  3. Perry Roumbos   •  

    Two thoughts on this topic.
    In a marriage, there never really is a 50 / 50% relationship. In decision making, one should make the final say; otherwise you won’t get far when one person says yes and the other says no. It should be a 51% and 49% relationship where that one percent gives you the final say.
    In comparing marriage to a business partnership, the same applies. One partner makes the ultimate decision when there is a disagreement. It should be agreed upon as to who gets that “1%” before a partnership should begin. That 1 percent is granted to the owner for whichever reason decided ( experience, monetary commitment and/or stability etc.

    Here is my second thought. When picking a partner, you are basically picking your boss. In one way or another you are held accountable to this person. So try to pick someone you could work for because in many ways you are working for this person.

  4. Mike Mulhall   •  

    Great points Perry. Those are definitely two things you can’t learn in books, you have to experience them. I can vouch for the 1% rule.

    So are you the 49% partner in your marriage? Ha ha

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