But they’re not eternal—it’s best to have an exit plan.
In our courtship days, some of us kept a long list of what we were looking for in a spouse. However, in the heat of the search some of us lost our list and fell “blindly” in love—hence the saying, “Love is blind.”
When we’re searching for a business partner, we better not be blind or we may lose everything, including our wallet and good credit.
I won’t share my list of what I looked for and found in a wife—she’s my only one, I might add—but I will share what I now look for in a business partner, having had at least 12 prior partners that I can remember.
Look for someone who:
- Demonstrates proven ability to manage himself or herself. If someone can’t self-manage, especially in the areas of money and time, you probably don’t want them for a partner. If you do partner with such a person, you might eventually have to take their check-writing authority from them, then their company credit card, and finally any corporate authority.
- Has a happy marriage, if married. Running a business with a partner is hard enough when everyone is happy at home. If your partner isn’t, the problems will usually compound and greatly affect job performance. Plus, problems of stock and company ownership are often part of divorce proceedings, which can further disrupt the business.
- Has similar values. Keeping promises in the business world is essential to growing a company. If someone has the philosophy of “promise them anything and deliver as little as you can get away with,” you’ve got problems, especially if you believe in “underpromise and overdeliver” like I do.
- Maintains good credit. Some might disagree with me here, but I think good credit indicates good self-management. As I’ve gained experience with partners, I often ask for permission to pull a credit report on someone I’m considering partnering with, and I don’t mind if they do the same with me.
- Is a person you’d be proud to be seen with. As your enterprise grows, you and your partner will need to go to many business appointments together. Early visits to banks for loans—and hopefully some later award-banquet invitations—will require a little polish from both of you. You won’t want to feel ashamed of how your partner dresses, acts, or communicates.
- Has a history of success both on and off the job, including in arenas such as school, family, and play. In our family we say, “You can usually judge a person’s future by what they have accomplished in the past.”
- Offers skills that are complementary to your abilities. Some people partner with friends just like themselves. Compatibility is vitally important—however, in choosing partners look for someone who will bring strengths that round out your weaknesses.
- Has the same long-term goals for the business. Some of my biggest disagreements—some of which have led to the collapse of partnerships—were triggered by different goals. In one case, one of us wanted to forgo distribution of any profits, while the other wanted and needed to take some distribution.
- Is willing to put partnership agreements in writing. We teach our students in the Academy for Creating Enterprise* that without a written agreement, they’ll be at high risk for challenges or failure in their partnerships.
- Demonstrates a high energy level and is driven to achieve. It’s hard enough to motivate yourself. If you have to continually push your partner, it’s going to be a long, hard road.
- You can have fun with. Some of my most memorable times have been on business trips with my partners. We have laughed and teased. You’ve got to get along with your partners!
Maybe I’m a little idealistic in some of my criteria, but the bottom line is that you’ll hopefully be partners for a long time. The more care you take in choosing a partner, the better your odds will be of building a great business together.
*Academy for Creating Enterprise—a non-profit that teaches Returned Missionaries and others in Less Developed Countries (LDC) how to increase family income to bring self-reliance to their families. https://www.the-academy.org