When starting or expanding a business, it’s tempting to partner up with a good friend or even your significant other. But what makes someone a good friend or life partner doesn’t automatically make them a great business partner.
How do you find the right business partner?
1. Seek complementary skills
Rather than finding your clone, look for a partner with skills and personality traits that balance out yours. Maybe you’re an extrovert who loves networking, selling and dealing with customers, but you’re not so keen on number crunching, website management or data analysis.
To have the strongest business possible, you should have well-rounded expertise and skills, which are rarely found in one person alone. Figure out what types of skills and traits your business needs the most that you don’t possess, then hunt for a partner who does possess them.
2. Look for the right personality
Even though you want your partner to have some opposite skills, you should ensure any partner you take on is dependable, committed to seeing the business succeed, shares your business goals and respects you and your role. You shouldn’t work with someone who wants to micromanage you, has ulterior motives or views your role as less valuable.
Before you search for a partner, make a list of what skills and personality traits you’d like your partner to have and which would be a deal-breaker (like being too critical or narrow-minded). Then check every potential partner you meet against that list. Personality profiling tests such as the Myers-Briggs or Gallup’s StrengthsFinder can help you and a prospective partner see how your personalities and skills match up.
3. Vet every prospective partner in advance
Make sure to research any prospective partner as much as possible before you enter a partnership.
“Call former partners and business associates, inquire with clients, read comments on their social media pages and look them up on Google,” writes Deborah Mitchell, a media and branding consultant. “Keep reading way past page one of the search results.”
Once you find the right partner who’s as passionate and committed to seeing the business succeed as you are, then take some steps to protect yourselves. Make sure to have a legally binding partnership agreement that includes an exit strategy clause in case one partner wants or needs to leave the business (a buy-sell agreement is one common way to handle this risk.)
Lay out in detail in the partnership agreement each partner’s role and responsibility. This will be helpful if there’s any future question about who handles what, especially as the business expands and new roles and responsibilities spring up.
Partnering up when starting a business can be a very smart move. Just make sure you’re choosing a partner wisely to set your venture up for success!
This article originally appeared in the Office Depot/OfficeMax Ideas Center.