How Do You Find the Right Business Partner?
Don’t go into business with someone until you’ve answered these six essential questions
Steve Jobs and the Woz.
Oprah and Gayle.
And of course, Ben and Jerry!
Finding the right partner in business can be the key to unlocking a remarkable level of success.
And two people working together can build something that neither one of them could have done alone.
That’s the beauty of a successful business partnership, isn’t it? You’ve got someone to collaborate with, split costs and work with, and stand by your side through good times and bad.
But to be honest, the numbers aren’t great. Studies show that a staggering 70% of business partnerships ultimately fail.
If you want to avoid becoming a part of that statistic, you’ve got to select your business partner wisely.
Today, I want to help you do just that. Here are six essential questions to ask yourself when choosing a business partner.
Get this right, and you’ll have a strong foundation for a level of success you simply can’t achieve on your own.
Let’s jump in!
1. Do you share the same values?
The foundation of any successful partnership, business or otherwise, lies in shared values.
When you and your potential partner have similar values, you’re creating a solid bedrock to build your joint venture upon.
Start by making sure you trust the other person’s character and that you align on key matters like accountability, respect, and transparency.
Those shared values serve as the guiding compass for your business. They’ll influence how you think about decisions, and they’ll shape the culture of the organization you build together.
Not getting this right is like going into business with someone who doesn’t speak the same language. You’ll approach situations in fundamentally different ways, which will likely lead to frequent conflict and disagreement.
2. Do your motivations align?
Understanding each other's motivations is essential if you want a compatible partnership.
Are you and your potential partner driven by the same purpose and passion?
When your motivations match up, you can propel each other forward. That alignment will keep you going when you face big obstacles and tough decisions.
If both partners say their primary motivation is to make the world a better place – when really, one partner is just in it to make money – then that partnership will falter in the long run.
Be ruthlessly honest with yourself and your potential business partner. It’s the only way you can truly make sure your motivations are aligned.
3. Do your strengths complement each other?
In successful partnerships, people understand their strengths and how to blend them harmoniously.
That starts with your own self-awareness. Where do you excel? Where do you struggle?
With that understanding, you can look for a partner with complementary skills, expertise, and experiences that will enhance the overall capabilities of your partnership.
Nat Turner, the CEO of Collectors, recently joined me on my podcast and spoke glowingly of his long-standing business partner Zach Weinberg.
“We're very different,” he told me. “He’s more product-minded and more technical. I'm more of the do-fifty-things-at-once [person].” But those complementary skills help Nat and Zach build top-notch solutions while also managing the team they need to scale it all.
If you’re into each other’s business too much, it zaps the joy of what a great partnership can – and should – be.
But with complementary strengths, you and your partner will bring out the best in one another. As the saying goes, you’ll find the “whole” of your partnership is greater than the sum of its parts.
4. Do you genuinely like them as a person?
When you go into business with someone, you’re going to spend a lot of time together.
It may seem simplistic, but you have to genuinely like and respect the person you’re going to be clocking all those hours with.
Ask yourself: is this person someone I genuinely like? Do I appreciate their character? Do I enjoy their company? Do they make me feel at ease and comfortable?
Too often, people fall into business partnerships because of a shared connection or idea. But it needs to go deeper.
Don’t partner with someone just because they want to partner with you. Partner with someone because you like them and want to partner with them.
When you genuinely enjoy your partner’s company, you'll find joy in the collaborative process and draw strength from each other during the ups and downs.
5. Do you know how to get through conflict together?
Conflict is an inevitable part of any partnership – and a reality for all organizations.
The ability to navigate conflict with grace and resilience is what sets exceptional partnerships apart.
In fact, great partners even embrace conflict when it arises, because they recognize it as an opportunity for growth and innovation.
Don’t consider someone as a business partner until you’ve navigated conflict together.
Then, assess how you and your potential partner handle differing opinions or tough situations.
How well does your partner communicate and actively listen? Do they show their commitment to finding the right solution, or are they more concerned with “winning” the discussion?
Tough times test partnerships and are probably the biggest reason they fall apart.
But when you and your partner have the strength and maturity to work through conflict, you’ll come through the rough patch even stronger.
6. What does your gut say?
If you talk to people whose relationships with their business partners went south, almost all of them will tell you that they knew that something was off, right from the start.
Now, we’ve got to attribute some of that to the benefit of hindsight, but it brings up a key point:
When it comes to selecting a business partner, trust your gut.
Yes, you’ve got to ask yourself all these questions and do the analysis, but your instincts really matter here. If you can’t shake the nagging feeling that something isn’t right, then something probably isn’t right.
And as painful as it may be to say no to a promising partnership, it is MUCH more painful to run a business in a dysfunctional partnership.
Your choice of business partner can shape the trajectory of your entire career.
But by considering these six factors, you’ll increase the likelihood of forging a great business partnership to navigate the difficult moments and celebrate success, too.
Remember, shared values, aligned motivations, and complementary strengths are the building blocks of a successful partnership. In addition, you’ve also got to factor in how much you genuinely like someone, how you each deal with conflict, and what your gut says about the whole situation.
Do all that, and you and your business partner can create something truly special together.