By Mark Baldino and Ben Ihnchak
Starting a business isn’t easy and neither is searching for the perfect business partner. So how do you know that you’ve found “the one”? Truthfully, it is no small task. Your potential candidates may have the passion and talent that you seek in a co-founder, they may even be your best friends, but there is much more to consider when choosing a business partner than whether you’d want to hang out with him or her on the weekend.
A healthy business relationship requires deep trust and commitment, and can be more legally binding than a marriage. This decision deserves a significant amount of forethought and attention, and you deserve a process that ultimately makes you feel confident the potential partner is the right man or woman for the job.
While it can be a tedious process, it’s worth the extra time and consideration. This evaluation shouldn’t stop with an offer; in fact, it should extend beyond the initial decision as well. When kicking off your next business venture, keep these three questions in mind before, during, and after you’ve chosen a partner.
Before—Would you take this person to be your lawfully wedded business partner?
You think you’ve found the perfect match to help run a business. After making the offer, you’ll quickly find that a business partnership requires reviewing and signing more paperwork and documentation than you would with a legal spouse, in which case you’ll need to evaluate and ask some important questions: Do you implicitly trust this person? Are they willing to put in the work that’s required? Are they as equally dedicated to the business as you are? Are they willing to talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly of starting—and potentially ending—a business?
If one or more of these questions results in a reply of “no” or causes you to pause and think twice, you may need to reevaluate whether this person is the right fit for the job.
Trust your gut. Make sure the relationship has what it takes to endure the trials and tribulations that accompany a business before saying “I do.”
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During—Would you start a business with this person again tomorrow?
You’re officially IN business with this person, all of the required legal documentation has been signed and the business is up and running. This next phase is about confirming that the relationship is working and the business is benefiting from your collaboration as a team. Every day you should ask yourself, “Do I want to start a new business with this person?” Hopefully, the answer every day will be “yes.” If the answer is the opposite, then it may be that the relationship isn’t quite where it needs to be to successfully run a business.
It’s also important to keep in mind that this question should be asked by your business partner in return. He or she should feel just as confident that the relationship is working—it is, after all, a two-way street. If all is well, you both may be feeling confident that this partnership has the longevity and strength needed for a long-standing business, and you may even begin planning your next venture or growth opportunity together.
After—Do you know how this relationship will end before it gets started?
While your business may be thriving and your partnership is going strong, you must consider the possibility of an ending to the story. One of the most crucial components of starting a business with someone is discussing the tough “what if” scenarios. It’s not easy or enjoyable to have these conversations, and it’s certainly not something you dream about discussing when taking on a new venture, but it’s essential that there are solutions to any surprise situation.