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The fastest way to run a business to the ground

Oct 01, 2015

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 written by Adam Ochstein, founder and CEO of StratEx.

When looking for a business partner, having a checklist of what you want and don’t want can either be helpful or detrimental, especially if you end up eliminating possible candidates for the wrong reasons. Business owners need to ask themselves if the criteria is based off of a personal agenda or if it’s to help the business grow. I found my business partner over eight years ago, and here’s what I learned:

Create a list of non-negotiables
There are certain things I knew my business partner needed to have. Make a list of things you won’t compromise on, whether it’s a specific skillset, years of experience, knowledge of a particular software, a flexible schedule or a resilient work ethic — and never settle. There are “must-haves,” and then there are the “nice-to-haves.” Make sure this list is the “must-haves.”

Remove the blinders
I’m Jewish and my business partner is Arab — two clashing religions that in most scenarios wouldn’t work well together. If I let that get in the way when starting out, StratEx wouldn’t be where it is today. Instead, I focused on what was best for the company’s future. Business owners often have blinders going in and automatically remove candidates for the wrong reasons.

See also: This is what entrepreneurs can do to be more like Google's Page and Brin

Share a vision
From both a personal and a professional standpoint, values and long-term goals need to be similar. This doesn’t mean your partner has to like or have interest in every single thing you do, but in order for there to be an equal investment of work ethic and dedication to building the business, there needs to be alignment.

Look for compatibility
A business partnership is just like a marriage — you’ll spend countless hours with your partners, especially when starting out. You have to like being around them and be able to trust them even more than your immediate family, as they’ll have access to all financials and sensitive documents. You also need to trust their commitment. The theory that opposites attract may work when it comes to someone’s personality (extrovert vs. introvert), but when it comes to work ethic, sense of humor and values, being opposites will cause problems. Find someone who compliments your strengths, and, more importantly, someone who has strengths where you have weaknesses. So if someone is sales focused, they should seek someone who excels at operations.

Don’t rush it
It’s easy for entrepreneurs to settle and bring on a business partner too fast if the company is in dire need of a turnaround, but this is a recipe for disaster. Take your time and meet with candidates extensively. Meet with them at different venues and do different things, like dinner at the office or on the golf course. Spend time with them. Get to know them. Have other people meet them. Make sure you’re 150% certain.

Read all responses to the Leadership Insider question: What do you look for in the ideal business partner?

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The real reason 65% of startups fail by Alicia Navarro, CEO of Skimlinks.

Why you keep picking the wrong business partner by Tom Gimbel, CEO of the LaSalle Network.

Why friends make terrible business partners by Todd McKinnon, CEO of Okta.

What you need to know before choosing a business partnerby Clark Valberg, CEO of InVision.

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.

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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.

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