The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question “What do you look for in the ideal business partner?” is by Tom Gimbel, CEO of the LaSalle Network.
To partner, or not to partner? That is the question. Who knew Shakespeare was an expert on business? The concept of having a partner has its pros and cons, and there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong way to find one. Once you’ve realize this, you are ready to move forward.
First, ask yourself: Why do you want a partner? The main reason is typically because you need someone that processes skills that you don’t. Whether they have the financial background to bring your idea to fruition or the sales mindset to complement your operational expertise, there’s no question that the best partners will bring new (or lacking) skills to the table.
If you have made the crucial decision to have a partner, it’s important to develop a criteria that you can use to evaluate their potential. Your decision shouldn’t be based solely on likeability or there will eventually be trouble. I have seen many partnerships go south because the partners want to focus on the same area of the business and, thus there is no “alpha” — just two barking dogs.
You need to be able to evaluate their dedication to the company at hand. While most partnerships have operating agreements, you also need to make sure you are covering what happens if you want out. If you can’t talk about breaking up, it’s not the right partnership. Unlike a marriage, you are entering this from a business perspective and like any vendor, client or employee situation; you need to prepare for the worst–case scenario. The ability to talk openly about tough issues is crucial when choosing a partner.
You then need to look at where this person is in his or her life and career, and what they are willing to sacrifice for the success of the company. Success is the key part. If you are single without kids and your partner has a family, how does their idea of work-life balance differ from yours? Are you okay with it? Managing key expectations is crucial. When one partner feels as though they are doing more of the heavy lifting than the other, trouble is on the horizon.
Additionally, be sure to have an open dialogue. Do you feel comfortable sharing your life with your potential partner? Personally and professionally? Trust is a non-negotiable. If you can’t share what’s going on in your life, how can you be risking your career and financial future with this person?
And lastly, its important to do background checks. You both need to agree to have criminal, credit and drug tests done and share the results with one another. People who have debt or drug problems usually don’t willingly share them, so you both need to be transparent. It starts everyone out at an equal level of knowledge and understanding. Partnerships are great; however, that doesn’t mean you should go into them blind.
Read all responses to the Leadership Insider question: What do you look for in the ideal business partner?
Never pick a business partner based on their skills alone by Pau Sabria co-founder of Olapic.
Business lessons from Iraq: How to create a dynamic team by Chris Fussell, chief growth officer at McChrystal Group.
Dolby CMO: What Star Wars taught me about finding business partners by Bob Borchers, senior vice president and CMO at Dolby Laboratories.
The quickest way to sabotage your new business by Jim Yu, CEO of BrightEdge.
How to avoid picking the wrong business partner by Ryan Harwood, CEO of PureWow.
3 signs you need to ditch your business partner by William Craig, founder and president of WebpageFX.
The most important relationship you will make in your career by Nirav Tolia, CEO of Nextdoor.