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Five tips to help you choose the right business partner

Five tips to help you choose the right business partner

Take your time and only enter the relationship if it feels right, says Anisha Sagar

You can’t choose your family. But you can carefully pick your business partner – a decision that can give you the edge needed for short-term startup growth and long-term exit plans.

Analysing these five points will give you an insight into the psychology of your partnership needs.

Find partners who share your values

Finding the right business partnership boosts your chance of success. In a study of 2,000 businesses by Marquette University, 94 per cent of ‘hyper growth’ companies, had two or more partners.

But this data doesn’t highlight an important key for compatibility – your values.

Values are emphasised by business psychologist David Gage in The Partnership Charter. It includes the story of Gary Frey (later to become president of Axiom Creative Group) whose failure to align with partners who shared his values in some of his early ventures cost him nearly $250,000. He says: “In my early partnerships I was so eager to get the ball rolling that I made the mistake of hastily committing myself without paying enough attention to comparing core values.”

So, ensure you have that all-important values check list:
• Know your own core values
• Know your partner’s values
• Analyse the contrast and compatibility
• Take your time to evaluate and make decisions

It’s vital to write down a list of your five-10 core values and compare them with those of your potential partner – even if it’s your spouse.

Find partners who complement your skills and personality

If your values are aligned with your prospective partner, then the next step is to consider your skills and personality. You can discuss this openly and are likely to get an indication of compatibility fairly quickly.

It’s key to think about the logistics of your business – inclusive of the skills, leadership, and tasks you’ll face. Are you and your partner well-matched to support success?

What’s vital is balance.

You might get on very well, but if you’re both introverted strategic thinkers you may lack the leadership and influential voice needed for a successful partnership.

‘Business date’ your prospective partners

There are endless ways to potentially meet your business partner – dinner parties, networking via a business hub, or bumping into someone on a flight. Alternatively, many people opt for family members or friends.

Regardless of your backstory, it’s important to get to know the person on a deeper level – so consider a range of diverse business meet-ups before committing.

• Get to know each other via golf, dinner, or a shared interest
• Know your partner’s background
• Interact as a team at networking events
• Entertain prospective clients together
• Have dinner with each other’s families or partners
• Note how you’re treated and whether the dynamics are empowering
• Gauge responses from others

Know your prospective partner’s history

Forming a strong business partnership requires trust.

But being a soft touch when it comes to transparency and knowing your prospective partner’s business history is something to avoid.

In this day and age, it’s reasonable to ethically research someone’s background online as well as using traditional means such as requesting references. I advise those seeking partnerships to try and get to know someone progressively over a 12-month period, which mitigates the risk of making rash decisions.

The patient approach to partnering-up also gives you time to interact in a business-like manner – without formalising agreements. Consider holding meetings together, analyse projects, network, plan logistics, and so on.

Just don’t commit until you’re sure.

Trust your gut instinct

Research from Smiths Business School in Canada suggests that over 40 per cent of CEOs make decisions based on intuition.

The science behind intuition is somewhat subjective, but proponents cite the fact that one’s gut feeling acts like an internal algorithm that creates a sensation formed by analysing millions of data points.

I’m not suggesting you ignore all your data. But often, something that also feels right (or not!) shouldn’t be ignored.

Going into business with a partner is a like a marriage – build slowly and only say yes if, and when, it feels right. If you choose wisely, then you should feel at ease during every stage because your prospective partner will be aligned with who you are.

Anisha Sagar is the general manager of Fujairah Creative City Dubai

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