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Choosing Partners in Doing Business

Who you get on with down the pub, may not be in the office

Have a think of the partners you have. Some of them were carefully recruited or looked for. Some others perhaps you just ended up with. Perhaps it started off as an interesting idea. The idea turned into a project and before you know it a company.

The honeymoon period soon passed and all of a sudden you woke up and smelt the roses. You are now staring at your partner and asking yourself why them, and why me!?!

Yet when it comes to this moment, it hasn’t been just a day or a week, but maybe a year.

The partners ultimately picked themselves. At the beginning neither of you had ever taken that time to step back and really thing about the relationship.

Partners we can think of including buyer/seller relationship, project partnership relationship, subcontractor relationship, and even the employer/employee relationship.

In this case we are focussing about those partners in starting a business. The coowners or cofounders, although many of the following tips can be applied across the board.

Here’s what we recommend doing before moving forward on your next venture.

Have those hard, visionary conversations early

Fortunately, those initial meetings you have, shouldn’t be like an early date.

Hopefully you shouldn’t be sweating, nor will there be butterflies in your stomach. The conversation you need to have however, will resemble you blurting out whether you believe in marriage, whether you want your own kids and what your bad habits are. (which is a no-no on a first date, apparently)

What could be a relationship breaker with the love of your life in that regard, and can save you disappointment further down the line, finally shares a theme with this hard business conversation.

The earlier you set out your needs and wants, your musts and must nots, the clearer you are able to communicate and reduce disputes in the future.

Write them down in black and white. Sign it. Refer back to them.

Let’s imagine a year down the line this amazing client comes — according to your partner, yet they don’t have the best reputation — according to you. Their gut says go with it, but yours says no.

Perhaps a year before you could have put them on your blacklist of customers, or have a clear criteria for who you do or don’t accept as clients.

Now it’s either accept the contract or your partner jumps ship and takes the new client and some of the old with them. Bummer.

Set clear expectations of each other

So you’ve explained your mission and vision, you’ve shared your boundaries and beliefs, and you’re onto another meeting or two. Things are going well, and chances are that you are both leaders yet with complimentary skills, and that’s why you’ve come together to start this amazing idea.

Now what you need to really get down is your commitments and a plan. You’ve got to be very clear on who does what, how often and how they will be held accountable.

This could range from initial capital investment to who will be in charge of daily TikTok posts. It could be measured in terms of money brought in, time spent or just effort, but there is nothing worse than feeling you are swimming against the current to keep things going, whilst matey over there sips a cocktail on their unicorn inflatable which is strapped to your ankle pulling you back.

Sure these tasks can change and there are discussions to be had daily, weekly or monthly, but having those performance measurements in early again defines what you each expect and holds both of you accountable.

Write it down in black and white. Sign it. Refer back to it.

Get references

You’d do it for a new employee, and maybe a new supplier, so why not for your cofounder?

So far you’ve only seen their interview face, their impress you voice and their I can do that body language. But what about when things get tough, or when things get stressful. Will you have a case of Jekyll and Hyde or Banner and Hulk, or will they be as cool as a cucumber and resourceful to help guide you through.

Ask them directly and tell them it’s part of your due diligence, they could even provide you with references. If you’re in similar sectors you can probably get some feedback, or if they were successful before then the internet is actually your friend.

Don’t take every story at face value though, as you should know you can’t please everyone and there could always be the odd disgruntled former colleague who had their milk stolen from the fridge once. Bring it up with the potential partner if there’s concern and get their side of the story, a lot of the time their reaction will say it all.

There are my three tips, learnt through experience and making mistakes, but always trying to implement them the next time I undertake a new project or business idea.

What about you? Have you had any partners you’d rather not have met?

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