Finding a business partner: How to pick the right one

Ready to start a business but don’t want to do it alone? Find out how to pick the right partner to share the journey with you. 

It’s quite normal and understandable to want to start a business with a partner. It’s a big journey to embark on alone, and having someone to share this with you means you can draw on more support and ideas. You can also share the workload and investment costs. 

But that said, you need to pick your business partner very carefully. The last thing you want to do is end a beautiful friendship or find yourself commercially tethered to someone who doesn’t hold the same values as you – and see your reputation ruined as a result. Worse, you may find yourself in financial or legal hot water or even in breach of contract statute of limitations Florida

So, how can you pick the right business partner? In this article, we share three things you need to consider before you launch. 

1) Find a business partner who shares the same values as you 

One of the most important factors to consider when picking a business partner is their values. Do they care about the same things as you? And, do they work to the same standards? When your business partner shares your values, it makes making decisions much easier as your values are aligned. 

To give you an example, let’s say a customer asks for a refund. Your values are to offer exceptional customer service as you believe this is fundamental to success and just a nice way to behave. But your business partner doesn’t share this value. Instead, they value earning money over a good reputation and don’t care about making someone unhappy. 

In this scenario, you probably won’t agree on how to handle the unhappy customer. If one of you takes an action without consulting with the other, it can lead to conflict. 

Also, imagine that you’re experiencing a busy period in your business and can’t keep up with orders during your normal working hours. So, you decide to sacrifice your free time to catch up because working hard to stay on top of orders and maintain the quality of your output is a value you hold. 

But your business partner doesn’t share this value. They don’t see why they should give up their free time, and, instead, would prefer to cut corners and deliver a lower standard, or turn away work. 

Again, there’s no easy middle ground here. And, if you do follow your values and work extra hours, you’ll soon feel resentment towards your partner who you may perceive as lazy or unambitious. Meanwhile, they believe you’re going to unnecessary lengths and, in turn, may come to resent your ‘martyrdom’. 

You can see from these examples how starting a business with someone who doesn’t share your values can be frustrating. But, often, you don’t see these potential pitfalls when you start out. Instead, you’re both filled with excitement about the possibility of launching your business. And, your shared vision for the end goal of running a profitable business blinds you to any differences in the way you handle specific scenarios en-route to that success. 

So, try not to get carried away with excitement when considering working with someone even if you think you know them well – many beautiful friendships have ended over the business. Instead, have an honest conversation about how you’ll handle particular situations in your business. And, be brave enough to walk away if you don’t think you share the same values. 

It’s also a red flag if you can’t even discuss potential differences of opinion. You may need to have tough conversations when running a business, and if your partner stonewalls you or becomes combative, it’s a warning sign that communication could be difficult. Ask yourself if you really want to run a business with your money and reputation on the line with someone who can’t converse and compromise when the going gets tough. 

2) Choose a business partner with skills and experience you don’t have

There are so many roles that need to be fulfilled in a business, and it’s rare to find someone who can do all of them well, or who enjoys doing so. So, it makes sense when picking a business partner to find someone whose experience and skills complement your own. Someone who can do things you can’t. 

For example, if you’re brilliantly creative but terrible with numbers, then the last thing you need is a financially illiterate partner. Instead, try to find someone who might be happy to take a back seat on creative decisions but who loves numbers. That way, you can each excel in your own roles and build a thriving business. 

By choosing a partner whose skills and experience don’t crossover with your own, you’ll also reduce workload and potential conflict. So, rather than two people trying to compete on the same tasks and doubling up on workload by you both doing everything, you can divide and conquer. 

In an ideal world, each of you can ‘own’ tasks that suit your skills and interests and happily run your part of the business – confident your partner has their part running smoothly. 

3) Pick a business partner you can agree an exit plan with

It may seem counter-intuitive, but before you start a business, it’s wise to plan how you’ll end it. How long do you want to run it for? What do you want to do at the end – close it down or sell it? 

Before you choose a partner to start your business with, you both need to be clear about – and agree on – how you exit it, and when. Of course, these plans may change, but by setting out with an agreement, you’ll both know what you are working towards and for how long. 

Otherwise, you can find yourself in a scenario where you think you’ve taken the business as you can or want to, and are ready to close it. Maybe you fancy an easier life or early retirement, but your business partner isn’t ready to quit. They’re more ambitious and want to grow your business bigger and maybe even franchise your idea, and are excited about working hard for many years for bigger rewards later on. 

There’s no win-win here, and one of you is going to be disappointed. That’s why it’s essential you start out your business with a clear idea of what you are working towards, and making sure you are in agreement. If one of you does change your mind, at least you know that it’s a deviation from the original plan, and you can open discussions without resentment because you’d assumed you were on the same page from the start. 

It’s also important to have a plan B in case things go wrong. What if one you wants to leave? Maybe your circumstances change or you move away? Or, what if you simply don’t want the same thing or to work together anymore?

As uncomfortable as these conversations are, it’s important, and much better, to have them up front, rather than try to work them out later on in a difficult and possibly emotional situation.