I must have had conversations on this topic with hundreds of people over the years and while the blend of what makes a good business partner is varied there are a few things that have to be in there for a partnership to work.
You will spend more time with a business partner than you will with your significant other
Let’s face it you will more than likely spend more time with a business partner than you will with your significant other, particularly in the early days of a business when the work load needed to get things moving can be overwhelming. It’s because of this that you need to be sure that your goals and what you want out of a business are aligned with anyone you are about to partner with. For instance if as soon as you make money one of you wants to buy a Porsche while the other one want to leave money in the bank to grow the business and plan for tax then you are quickly going to find yourselves in a position where arguments will ensue. This happens, all the time and it never ends well, friendships break down, businesses fail and employees lose their jobs. So check your goals, plans etc are aligned before you jump in.
Having said that a business partner doesn’t have to be the same as you, some of the best partnerships exist where the partner’s skills complement each other. The biggest learn in starting and growing a business is that you can’t do everything yourself so you have to trust that other people will take care of certain things for you. If you and your partner have distinct areas of expertise and you can trust each other to take care of things then you are making the best use of the resources at your disposal. If you constantly worry and check up on everything you will drive yourself mad.
This brings me onto the topic of trust, you have to have it in a business partner and if you don’t then abandon any hopes of growing a successful business. My rule of thumb is that a business partner should be the person you can call when you accidentally end up in a Mexican prison and you only have one call to make to the person most likely to do whatever it takes to get you out.
Trust is more important than anything
Finally it is always worth considering what life situation a potential partner is in as it very much frames their commitment and long term dedication to the cause. For instance if they have a wealthy family and owning a business is just something to do then they may lack the stamina and hunger for what will be a gruelling first few years. People always tend to work harder if they have a mortgage to pay and mouths to feed, however at the other end of the spectrum you should always be aware that if someone has no slack in their finances they may end up under too much financial pressure. This can result in them becoming embroiled in struggling financially and this will then snowball into them taking their eyes off the business.
Over the years as a business partner I have worked and continue to work alongside some amazing people but I have also seen the pitfalls of making the wrong choices which is how I speak from experience. So when you pick a business partner think about it long and hard and always put everything in writing.
Founder - first2group