Equally Yoked: Five Ways to Know You Have the Right Business Partner

Would you marry someone who didn’t share your values and vision for the future? Business partners are no different- follow these steps to get to know your potential partner before taking the plunge.

Photo Credit: Tim Gouw

The comedian Will Ferrell once said, “Before you marry a person, you should first make them use a computer with slow Internet to see who they really are.” As a business attorney, I’ve advised hundreds of start-ups.  When it comes to business partners, choosing poorly can lead to business failure, relational dysfunction, and large attorney bills! Here are five ways to determine if you’ve found the right partner:

  1. Shared Values.  The last thing you want is to hitch your wagon to a partner who doesn’t share your business and personal values.  Businesses are supposed to make money.  But is your potential partner too focused on making a quick dollar, and glazed over when you talk about building a long-term team?  Do you share the same approach to finding and keeping good employees and serving customers well?  Sort this out up front, so you know you have a shot at long-term success.
  2. Shared Vision. You’re about to engage in a long-term commitment, so make sure you see the future the same way.  If your goal is a lifestyle business, but your partner is trying to build maximum financial value, then you’ve got problems.  It won’t be long before he’ll think you’re lazy, and you’ll think she’s money-hungry.  This kind of disconnect can crush your business.
  3. Date First.  You wouldn’t marry someone you just met- so don’t partner with someone you know little about.  Find ways to test the relationship, and your partner’s abilities and commitment, so you’re not investing your time, money, energy and reputation on an “unknown”. A test-drive might save you from a huge headache later!
  4. Spend Time With Family.  One of the key ways to learn about a person is to observe them with their family.  Set a date night with spouses, or a cookout with each other’s families.  You’ll see how your potential partner interacts with those closest to him. Just as important, you’ll get valuable insights from your own spouse about your potential partner.
  5. Count Your Resources.  You need to know that your partner has the financial resources to help your business grow and weather tough times.  If you need unexpected capital to get over a road bump, will your partner be able to help?  Ask frank questions about the resources you each have available to support your start-up.
These five strategies are a great start in determining if you’ve got a good partner.  When you’re exploring partnership, asking the right questions up front will be a great investment for your business future!

About the Author

Neal Rice | Rice Law FirmNeal is a former Army Officer turned estate planning, real estate & business law attorney.  He is the founding attorney of the Rice Law Firm, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Outside of work, Neal enjoys time with his wife and family, serving his church, boating, traveling, and a good Philly cheese steak. You can email Neal at nrice@ricelegalfirm.com, or visit the Rice Law Firm.

This blog entry is for general information purposes only.  It is not intended to provide specific advice on individual legal, financial, or tax matters. It is not intended to and does not establish an attorney-client relationship.  Please consult an appropriate legal or tax professional for advice pertaining to your unique situation.