Until Death Do Us Part or Until Attorneys Get Involved – Finding the Right Business Partner

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Finding the Right Business Partner — 6 Things to Consider

Finding the right business partner can be as challenging as finding the right life partner. Before I met my husband, I never really had many long-term relationships. It wasn’t that I didn’t date. I just never found anyone I wanted to spend more than a few months with. That all changed when my husband entered my life. I found someone who challenges me, respects me, supports me and pushes me to do my best. We shared the same values and wanted the same things in life. I found someone who makes me a better version of myself and together we begin our lifetime partnership.

Just like marriage, entering into a business partnership should not be taken lightly. You are in effect making a commitment to another person to build a segment of your lives together. If the partnership does not work, for whatever reason, getting out of it can be even messier than a divorce.

In a recent coaching session, I was speaking with a senior level executive who was contemplating leaving their current job and entering the entrepreneurial world. She and a good friend had come up with a great business idea and spent the last few months building a business plan, creating a financial pro-forma and even identifying investors. They were ready to take the big leap, but something was holding her back. She had concerns about her partner’s ability to commit to what it takes to get a startup off the ground.

This conversation reminded me of a list created by the previous CEO of MDC Partners, Miles Nadal. He shared his thoughts on what to look for in a good partner. I have referenced this list many times during executive coaching sessions. It can be a good gut check for anyone looking for an ideal business partner.

Only partner with someone with whom you would want to have breakfast, lunch or dinner with a second time.

If you don’t want to share a meal together you don’t want to share a business together. Breaking bread with someone can be very revealing. Do they have basic table manners? How do they interact with the wait staff? Do they offer to split the check or always let you buy? These small things will add up.

Only partner with someone you like, admire, and respect.

This seems obvious but examine each word individually and decide do you genuinely like this person, admire this person AND respect this person. If you cannot clearly answer yes to all three, step back and think about the partnership.

Only partner with someone you trust enough to make the executor of your estate.

You may be thinking to yourself, I am only going into business with this person it’s not like I am signing over my life to them. What you have to realize is that in some ways you are signing over a portion of your life to them. Depending on how the business is structured, you are putting your future and possibly the future of your family in their hands.

Only partner with someone with whom you would want to spend a long weekend on a small boat, in a small cabin, or on a small ranch.

Anyone who has ever started a business, knows that it takes a ton of work, many long hours and sacrifices along the way. You will be working alongside this person for extended periods of time. If you don’t think you can spend 3 days straight together in close quarters, then stop and think about what you are doing.

Only partner with someone who shares the same passion, dedication, and willingness to sacrifice to accomplish the common mission.

This is probably the toughest question on the list and one that you need to be prepared to answer for yourself. You need to know what “all in” means for you and your potential partner. Lessons in my own life have shown me that no matter how well calibrated you are on the other questions, understanding how far you and your partner are willing to go to make the business work is better understood upfront then on the back-end when the honeymoon is over and the business experiences challenges.

Only partner with someone who has the human compassion gene.

Compassionate leaders motivate and inspire their employees to reach beyond their own self-imposed limitations. – This is my favorite qualifier on the list. Surround yourself with good people. You want someone by your side who understands the value of people and can help you become a better version of yourself. That is the ideal business partner.

Just like finding the right spouse, you know it when the right person comes along. You have to be willing to accept all of their strengths, weaknesses, talents and flaws, committing to making the relationship work. After being married almost 15 years, I have discovered that no relationship is perfect. There are going to be ups and downs and many challenges along the way. The key is to not give up on each other and most importantly remind ourselves about the reasons we came together in the first place.

HR Expertise On Demand

Finding the right business partner takes hard work and time. From hiring advice, to helping you build a successful business with strong business partners Mercer PeoplePro is here to help. We’ll even give you a free consultation, plus 2 free hours towards your first project. To set up your free consultation, visit Mercer PeoplePro — help is only a click away.


Written by Mercer PeoplePro Growing Your Business specialist Linda Ruffenach. As a former CEO, CFO and COO, she gets what it is like to be an executive at a fast growing company and can help advise on how to navigate the challenges that come with growing your business.

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