Here are seven things to look for when seeking a potential business partner.
There are numerous benefits of going into business with a partner: increased skills and experience, more capital, greater borrowing options for financing, and potential income-splitting or pass-through tax advantages. It can be extremely rewarding.
I can personally attest to this. My first business partner was my father, Roy Titus. We joined forces in 1986 to open the first Signarama. A franchising icon in his own right, my father’s guidance and support were invaluable to me and helped solidify the foundation of my company, which now spans three generations. I was fortunate to partner with someone I respected greatly and with whom I had shared a lifetime of experiences.
Throughout my years in business, I have formed many other partnerships and have learned a lot from the successes we have had together. To me, choosing the right business partner is arguably just as important as choosing the right life partner—especially when you consider the statistics. Research suggests that up to 70% of partnerships fail to deliver their intended outcomes—a staggering rate that reinforces the importance of choosing your partner wisely.
Here’s what to look for when seeking a potential business partner:
1. SHARED CORE VALUES
The financial benefits of going into business with a partner are undeniably attractive, but it is important to not let that misguide you. Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the excitement, the possibilities, and even a person’s expertise.
When choosing a business partner, don’t get too distracted by the superficial. It’s important to assess them thoroughly and do the same kind of due diligence as you would before hiring an employee.
To discern if a potential business partner’s core values align with your own, take time to sit down and define your non-negotiables in business. These can be things like honesty, trustworthiness, transparency, and loyalty.
2. SHARED GOALS
In addition to shared core values, having shared goals is fundamental to the success of any venture between partners. These should be defined and agreed upon before any official agreement is finalized to prevent discrepancies and delays—whether you’re in a startup or growth period. Aligning on goals ensures you and your partner are on the same page and can move forward together as allies.
A piece of advice I’d like to impart is that everyone has a limit to their memories, so it’s always good business to memorialize what’s been agreed to. Goals always need to be written down and kept safe so they can be revisited at any time. Documenting what you agree on can avoid a lot of future misinterpretations and arguments, especially once the business starts taking off.
3. ABILITY TO COMMUNICATE
Just like in any relationship, clear communication in a business partnership is key. Having shared goals is important, but maintaining strong communication with each other is how you achieve them.
When evaluating potential business partners, see how your communication flows—you both should feel comfortable expressing your needs and wants, and you should feel like you’re being understood and listened to.
If you’re feeling apprehensive to speak up or can’t quite seem to land on the same page, don’t ignore the red flags. Consider another partnership.
4. STRONG WORK ETHIC
Another potential benefit of having a business partner is enhanced work-life balance. A good partner can lighten the load, alleviate stress, and allow you to take worry-free time off. However, if you choose the wrong partner, it can easily be the opposite.
Therefore, ensuring your partner has a strong work ethic is vital to a fulfilling and mutually beneficial relationship. If you feel like you must constantly pick up their slack, it can lead to anger and resentment in the relationship. This can have detrimental effects and ultimately tank morale. It’s a domino effect that can be avoided with objective vetting.
5. AGILITY AND ADAPTABILITY
Agility and adaptability are two traits that used to be “nice to have,” but after the past couple of years have landed solidly on the “must-have” list. They are not only important for partners, but for all businesspeople today. The world is changing rapidly, and the faster we embrace change, the better.
It’s important to learn if your potential partner possesses these traits, as well as to measure their willingness to be nimble when necessary. Are you and your partner willing to bend a little to find common ground?
6. PROBLEM-SOLVING SKILLS
A good partner is always looking forward to a better future. They should be able to identify and take advantage of the silver linings in whatever challenges or circumstances come up. They should always be ready and able to turn lemons into lemonade. Of course, every business and partnership will have its differences—it’s how you get through them that will determine the ultimate success of your partnership. Are you both able to solve problems together, find resolutions to your differences, and keep moving for your business?
7. POSITIVE, FORWARD-THINKING MINDSET
Mindset is huge in business. Countless studies have shown that having a positive mindset and surrounding yourself with those who share the same attitude increases mood and motivation, which can directly play into productivity and morale.
Who doesn’t want a business partner who makes a concerted effort to bring positive energy into work every single day? Being able to rely on each other to bring your best selves to work is a game changer. And by sharing the belief that people should prioritize spending more time on their strengths than on their weaknesses, everyone benefits.
Better yet, if they also share your conviction that you’re collectively working not just for yourself but for the benefit of the next generation, that will guide your business and your partnership into the future.