Creating a business is tough, and it's easy to think you should go it alone to minimize potential conflicts and preserve your equity. Unfortunately, doing so can be a quick route to burnout and failure. Having business partners is a great way to gain moral and tactical support--what's important is that you make sure you're partnering with the right people.

Here are 10 questions you should ask yourself before entering into any partnership to be sure the arrangement will benefit you and your business.

Is the Partner as Committed to Your Business as You Are?

Obviously, having a strong commitment to the business is an essential trait you'll want to see in anyone you partner with. Someone with a poor commitment will fail to follow through on their work, discourage you and your team, and even damage your brand. Make sure any potential candidates "catch the vision" before you agree to partner with them.

How Much Time Does Your Partner Want to Spend On the Partnership?

Partners don't have to work an equal number of hours, as your exact commitments will depend on how the partnership is set up. However, making sure you both have the same expectations of each other's effort level will head off frustration and conflict before it occurs. And if a potential candidate isn't willing or able to commit on the level you need, take it as a sign that a different partner would be better.

What Are Your Partner's Key Strengths?

When I first started Single Grain, I worked alone for a couple of years, trying to do it all myself. But the business didn't really start to take off until I met and partnered with AJ Kumar. I was great at the technical and SEO side of things, and AJ was a real people person who excelled at sales and marketing. With both of us working on areas of our strengths, we began to do 4X the business and our new client close rates increased by 63%.

What Motivates Your Partner?

Knowing why your potential partner is in business at all is an important part of forming a healthy partnership. Some entrepreneurs are motivated by profit and look forward to growing a business and selling it. Others are looking to make a social difference in the world, and plan to be in the business a long time. Asking what motivates your partner will help you identify possible misalignments before you enter into any kind of arrangement together.

What is Your Partner's Financial Situation?

It may be awkward, but knowing your potential partner's personal and professional financial situation is essential before committing to a joint venture--and your partner should know these things about you as well. Knowing that you're both financially responsible will help form a foundation of trust in your business together.

How Does Your Partner Act Under Pressure?

Working together in a new business puts people under a lot of pressure. As a result, it's important to make sure that the way your potential partner responds to pressure is healthy, and meshes well with your own style. The last thing you want is to partner with somebody who's willing to do unethical things to make the bills, or who becomes irrationally angry at the slightest stressful provocation.

Is Your Partner Who They Say They Are?

It would be nice if everyone who looked like a good partnership candidate was trustworthy, but unfortunately, that's not always the case. If you're looking for someone with certain connections, verify that they actually have those connections before making a commitment.

In addition, pay careful attention to what others who have worked with them have to say, as reading between the lines can reveal character flaws that might not otherwise be disclosed. And finally, consider their reputation in the community. This way, you can be sure that you're working with a reliable, trustworthy partnership candidate.

Is Your Partner Willing to Put the Agreement in Writing?

All partnership agreements should be put in writing, including such details as who is responsible for what, how much time is expected from each partner, and how profits will be divided. If a partner wants to simply work on a handshake, that's a red flag--without a written agreement, you won't be able to hold them to their commitments.

How Will You Handle a Split?

Talking about a split when you're setting up a partnership feels a little bit like talking about divorce on your wedding night, but it's unfortunately important. If the partnership doesn't work out, what will happen? How will things be divided? Making this agreement up front can help avoid nasty legal battles if the partnership needs to end.

Do You Really Want to Work With This Person?

This question is for you, rather than your partnership candidate. What's your gut feeling? Do you even like the person, or are you compromising in exchange for certain perks or benefits (like a great connection)? Your business partner is someone that you're going to be spending a lot of time with. Be sure that your gut says yes, as well as your mind.

Working with a partner can be an amazing boon to your business, but it can also be a disaster if you don't approach the arrangement carefully. By asking yourself and potential partnership candidates these 10 questions, you can substantially increase the odds of making the match that's needed to take your business to the next level.

What questions would you add to this list for interviewing potential business partners? Share your suggestions below in the comments!

Published on: Feb 16, 2015
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