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Business Partners: Date Before You Wed

Think you're ready to commit? Not so fast. Consider these questions before making any big partnership decisions.
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Business partnerships are like marriage--only without the sex. 

Before you enter into any partnership, you should be willing to take the vow: Will you stick by this person through the ups and downs, the successes and failures, in good times and in bad? And just as you would with a potential spouse, you better ask the big questions before jumping in. Who were your previous partners? What are your core values? How do you handle finances? 

I have been working with my business partner Lance Kalish for nearly a decade. We have built multiple companies, celebrated each other’s weddings and children, traveled the world together, and dealt with the highs and lows of entrepreneurship side by side. Yet we’ve only had one real fight during those 10 years (I forget the topic, but I remember winning!). 

A few things have been key to our success as a partnership. We take on very different (but complementary) roles at the company. A few years ago during an important meeting, one of our investors was trying to explain our two roles. In the end he gave up and said, “Ido is pictures, Lance is numbers. That’s all you need to know.” 

We trust each other’s judgment in our respective areas. We back each other up. And even when we disagree, we stick together as a unified team. A great example of this was when we first started Yes To. Within my role at the company, I decided that we should embark on a national print media campaign, and not just half-heartedly. I thought we should really double down on this campaign. Lance backed me up and off we went. 

The campaign turned out to be a major failure, and nearly forced us to close the company down. Another partner might have been especially wary the next time I proposed a newfangled marketing idea. To his credit, Lance wasn’t. He wholeheartedly supported me in the decision to put our last marketing dollars into a campaign on a hot little site known as Myspace. It was a major success for us and we never looked back. 

It takes a truly special partnership to be able to support each other that way even in the face of failure. 

So before you jump into a business venture with someone, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does he/she complement your skill set?
  • Do you trust him/her with your last dollar?
  • Does he/she share common ideals and values?
  • Can both of you put your egos in your back pocket?
  • Can you be direct and honest with each other?
  • Does he/she snore? (kidding-;unless you plan to share hotel rooms, which we did, and occasionally still do!) 

Of course, businesses partnerships can work without asking these questions. And businesses can fail even if you’re aligned on all of them. But just as with marriage, it can’t hurt to date a little before popping the question. 

Last updated: Jan 11, 2013

IDO LEFFLER | Co-founder, Yes To Inc.

Ido Leffler is co-founder and ?Chief Carrot Lover? of San Francisco-based Yes To Inc., maker of Yes To Carrots and the #2 natural beauty brand in the country.




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