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Starting a business can seem very daunting. So, you’re not Chuck Norris. You have a great business idea or project plan and acknowledge that you have limitations. Well, that’s okay because sometimes, bringing in a business partner makes good math.

A business partnership is a marriage of sorts. So before you seal that deal, take a moment…

In my third year at university, a close friend and I decided to start up an entertainment company together. It seemed like a fantastic idea at the time and we had a lot of fun as well as learned a great deal about the industry. In hindsight however, it would have been preferable to define the parameters of our professional relationship and consider a lot of the points on this list:

1. Look out for someone who brings something different to the table

It is important to approach a potential business partner who can complement you by bringing in something different whether it be financial power, business connections or a particular expertise.

Be sure to delineate the roles and responsibilities. Speaking from experience, it is never fun when one person feels like they are doing all the work. It is extremely important to draw up a founder’s agreement devoid of personal sentiments early on in the process.

There is no point bringing in someone who doesn’t have anything unique to offer. If the value proposition does not add up, ditch the thought.

2. You need to have a shared vision

Though your goals may differ to a reasonable extent (not so much that you want different things out of it), your potential business partner must buy into the vision you’re selling.

The last thing you want is a scenario where your partner is no longer passionate about the work or decides they have grown bored with the business. This is a risk that can actually happen to any business owner regardless of how pumped they are at the commencement of the venture.

However generally speaking, it is less likely that partners part ways if they both solidly believe in the vision behind a business and are committed to making it work.

3. Study them in their work environment

Seeing your potential partner in their professional element can help you better understand what it would be like working together. Do they have a good work ethic? Do you speak the same work language? Are you comfortable with their style and pace of work? The answers to these questions can help shape your decision when considering another for a partnership role.

Afua and Yasmin, SLA co-founders weigh in on what makes their partnership work:

Since we came from the same company, we have a similar working style which makes being partners very easy. It’s great having someone to collaborate and brainstorm with on new challenges.”

4. How do they handle personal crises?

Make the effort to get to know them not just on a professional level but on a personal one as well. How do they get along with friends? Are they petty and vindictive? How do they deal with the tough situations in their lives?

The last thing you want on your hands is a partner that’s messy and doesn’t know how to manage stressful situations.

5. What’s their commitment level like?

Startups are extremely tasking. In the incubation period, there’s a lot of conceptualization and planning going on. You need someone who is ready to give a 100% of themselves to the heart and soul of the business. Even if you are both unable to meet physically as often as you would like, they must be willing to keep the communication 110% just like you are. Virtual meetings, emails and instant messaging are available to compliment regular meetings.

If you notice that this person always has an excuse for not getting work done, calling like they said they would or constantly need motivation to think positively, it’s a definite red flag.

After going through this list, hopefully you feel more confident about your decision to take on a business partner. It’s a pretty exciting thing. If you have found however that you need to go back to the drawing board, that’s okay too. Like they say, better safe than sorry!


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