Before you seek a partner, evaluate the risk/return trade-off

Business Partnership is much like a marriage

Business Partnership is much like a marriage

March 2013

Written by  Mary  Rogers

Forming a partnership deal is much like a marriage, and not all marriages end in happily-ever-after. If anyone has experienced a bad Divorce they know this to be true.

After the sting of the Divorce wears off, the anger dissipates you start to feel a little foolish, and ask yourself “Why didn’t I notice the signs? How did I get fooled?! This person wasn’t anything like they said they were!”

At the time, you only saw the good, thought there were a few ‘small’ things and cute ‘quirks’ because you were convinced this was the one!

Before the business-marriage-ceremony ensure that you ‘really’ know the person you are considering making a partner. Of course there is no way of knowing for sure, nor any guarantees, but the questions below might help.

Remember, you need someone who will complement you and bring positive personal and professional value to your company. At this point in the game you should have worked with this person and should have a good understanding of who they are.  But do you really?

This is the time you need to be HONEST with yourself and recognize her/his weaknesses. It is the weakness that over time, become issues.

Ask yourself…

                Does this person bring you value or is he/she piggy-backing on your or others strengths and connections?

                Does he/she truly represent your brand and what you believe in?

                In the last 3 months/6 months/year how much business has this person brought you? How many meetings/connections or other value?

                In past pitches did you approve of the way they presented? Are you comfortable with them doing business on your behalf?

                Does this person do what they, and say what they mean?

                If you were to ask others that have done business with this person what would they say about them? What is his/her reputation?

                Does this person consistently meet their big or small commitments? Will this person do what’s right, especially when it isn’t convenient or profitable? Do they put themselves first, or the company as a whole?

                If you were ‘hit-by-a-bus’ and in the hospital or dead, will you be happy/confident that the company you built will now be owned and/or operated by this person?

                Have you ever checked up on him/her? For example have you had a conversation or sent an email to the person in whom he/she has-or-is doing business with and asked them how the relationship is progressing? Checked in on a task they are currently on to see if it is progressing the way he/she says it is? If you haven’t, why haven’t you? Wouldn’t you check references for any other employee before you hire them? Do a background check?

                Does this person generate results or continually offer “great” excuses?

                What were the results regarding the last project you worked on together? What did the other team members think?

 Before you seek a partner, evaluate the risk/return trade-off between growing the business yourself and sharing ownership. If you are still doing all the heavy lifting, this is not the right person. Keep the big picture in mind-the main reason to bring a partner on board is to enhance the value of your business beyond where you can take it yourself. Are you confident this is the right person? If you have doubts, listen to your instincts.

A final caution be sure to have a lawyer draft your legal partner shipment agreement; that clearly states what happens if this don’t work out. Know the buy out terms, and what you would like to have happen if you are incapable of running your business because of a medical emergency or death. Trust me, no matter the lawyers fees they will be work every penny if something goes wrong!