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7 Steps to Find the Perfect Business Partner

What's your New Year's resolution for your business?  What are the things you want to accomplish in the coming year?

A partnership is like a marriage in important ways, like requiring a high level of trust and the fact that not anyone will do. And, as in marriages, divorce is common; in fact it is more so in partnerships. Since the divorce rate is running at 40% in Canada, you should proceed carefully in taking an important business risk.

Bill Gates once said, “Our success has really been based on partnerships from the very beginning.” Partnerships are that important, whether your company becomes a multi-billion-dollar corporation or remains a smaller, yet successful venture. Choosing the right business partner can make a world of difference, so you have to do all you can to increase your chances of making a successful choice?

Keep these tips in mind for choosing the right business partner if you want your business to grow and be successful:

1. Know Yourself.  Perhaps the most important due diligence to be done, involves yourself. "Get your spouse or your friends to tell you whether you're good partner material."

Go into the partnership knowing your own strengths and weaknesses, and seek a partner that compliments these. That way, all bases are covered and you won’t leave unfilled gaps.

2. Date Before You Marry.  We are all creatures of habit.  How we act in one situation is how we tend to act in all others. Get to know your business partner outside of work, and take your time getting to know them. Do they cheat at golf? This could be a sign that they may cheat in business, as well. Do they help friends in need?  If so, they may be the ideal partner to lead customer service.

3. Define Goals.  It is important to make sure that you and your partner have the same goals, beyond the money aspect. Yes, getting rich is almost always part of the equation, and that is great. But you also need to have a common mission that you both are excited about. Determine what gets you both pumped up about the future.

4. Commitment. What competing priorities are there in each other’s lives that could impact the level of commitment towards the common goal? Someone that will work nights and weekends day in and day out may experience conflict with a partner that shuts his work down at 5pm to have dinner with her/ his family. The partner may feel that the other partner is not carrying his or her own weight. However, the difference does not necessarily have to be a situation that adversely affects the partnership. Although beneficial to have high levels of commitment, partners do not need to share the same work schedule to affect a successful partnership. At a minimum, the partners need to communicate what their level of commitment is for the venture so that there is mutual understanding and no animosity.

5.  Take a Trial Run. You can form a partnership that automatically dissolves after a certain amount of time or if certain expectations are not met. Hire a lawyer to define parameters that both partners need to adhere to. Marriages have prenuptial agreements, and business partnerships can, too.

6. Get References.  Get references from past clients, vendors and, ideally, from some past business partners. Give them a call and feel them out, to see what their attitude is toward the person you are considering.

7. Values. This area is usually the most critical factor that affects the partner relationship. Often partnerships are formed around an innovation, idea or concept and in the rush to bring that spark of excitement to fruition people forget to stop and figure out what their philosophies about work are. 

Everyone has their own set of values, but some are more self-aware than others. What are your top values and just how committed are you to those values? Everyone typically agrees that certain values are important, but if you had to narrow down your list of top values to one, which value would you choose? Is it only the money?  How you treat clients? How important are deadlines? Are you pro-active and interested in learning on the job/expanding your horizons? 

Partners must share common values and live by them to engender mutual respect.

In conclusion, finding that second person to help build your business idea into the next household name is no easy task. A good business partner shares your vision and enthusiasm, bringing expertise in the areas in which you are inexperienced.  Choosing the right business partner is not only crucial to the future success of the company, but is important to your personal life, as well. Like other entrepreneurs, you wanted to go into business in order to be happier. Choose the wrong business partner and your life can turn into a stress-inducing nightmare. Team up with the right one and your company may experience growth worthy of the cover of a magazine  

Regelle Partners Inc. 2014