Selecting the Right Business Partner


Look for the Same Compatible Qualities That You Should Seek in Any Relationship

By Marvin Snider, Ph.D., Organizational Consultant

All relationships are a partnership. There are characteristics that define partnership. Knowledge about which characteristics apply in a given partnership make the difference between a successful business partnership and a difficult one. The necessity for making an assessment can be difficult to accomplish for prospective partners. Often, they are irresistibly drawn to one another in the glow of a shared vision and the promise of financial prosperity. Potential partners will be rewarded by a heightened probability of a successful partnership when they are able to look beyond their initial enthusiasm and attend to considering their compatibility. Characteristics that warrant careful attention include:

1. Accountability

A successful partnership depends on each partner’s ability to follow through on commitments in a timely way — to be pleased with success and to own and correct mistakes. People who exhibit the following characteristics are a poor partner risk:
• Those who apply a double standard for their behavior and those of others
• Those who are quick to blame others
• Those who are insensitive to the needs of others

2. Compatibility in Values and Beliefs

Values are a guide to behavior — a road map to a desired goal. Beliefs are a statement of what is — a statement of current conditions. Partnerships have a better chance of success when the partners share common values and beliefs. This sets the basis for the ability to resolve major differences that could negatively impact on their ability to work together.

When dealing with difference:

• One needs to respect difference without judgment.
• One needs to have a commitment to search for consensus on differences.
• One needs to view compromise as an investment in a relationship and not as a deprivation.
• One shouldn’t always have to be right or need to be in control.

3. Judicious Risk Taking

The venture into any new business presents risk, and risks naturally involve making mistakes. People who view making mistakes as failure will never be successful entrepreneurs. Success comes precisely from taking calculated risks and learning from one’s mistakes. The hackneyed maxims, “no risk, no gain” is a reality reminder of a basic truism. Of course, adequate homework must be done before taking risks so that the uncertainty, number, and severity of consequences in taking risks will be minimized. Also of concern, is whether the consequences of failure are manageable. Included in the assessment of risk is whether the desired goal is warranted in terms of time, money, or energy.

4. Managing Emotions

Learning to manage one’s emotions is as important as developing one’s intellect. A productive partner pays as much attention in the development of constructive management of his emotions as he does his intellect. His capability is enhanced when he learns to balance intellect and emotions so that they work in concert with one another. He also recognizes that when emotions run too high, it will short-circuit his ability to use his intellect. It is best to avoid a person who has a short fuse in managing his emotions, is impulsive, has chronic disruptive anxiety, and exhibits low frustration tolerance.

5. Personal Characteristics

Potential partners should get to know each other well enough to determine whether the positives in their relationship offset any negative characteristics. It is important to gain knowledge about a person’s work ethic, any behaviors that would enhance the relationship, and those that might have negative impact such as alcohol or use of drugs.
Even examination of lifestyle becomes important when it impinges on the partnership. It should be determined whether outside interests are likely to be an asset or interfere with the needs of the partnership. For example, a person may become highly involved in community activities, believing these activities will enhance the image of the business relationship. The partners need to evaluate whether the benefits of such activities are sufficient to offset the absence of the partner from the business. Partners who like each other and get along well will have an easier time managing their partnership.

6. Stable and Supportive Personal Life

The demands of conducting business require the concentrated attention of a partner. A potential partner who is having significant personal difficulties is vulnerable to distraction and ultimately to poor judgment. Consideration should be given to conditions that could potentially enhance or interfere with a partner’s ability to attend to his partnership responsibilities. Items to consider include:
• The presence of a supportive spouse or a stressed marriage
• The presence of illness among a parent, spouse, or child
• Parenting demands

7. Communication Skills

Communication skills represent one of the most critical variables for success in a partnership. They are the cement that binds the various parts of a business effort into a productive whole. Desired characteristics include:

• Good listening skills
• Good use of language
• Awareness of how one’s behavior impacts others
• Use of “I” instead of “you are” statements
• Ability to give positive acknowledgment appropriately
• Predictability and stability in ethical behavior
• Patience, commitment, and respect for the feelings and views of others
• Collaborative decision-making style
• The ability to check out assumptions before acting on them
• The ability to accept critical feedback
• The ability to model behavior expected from others
• Respect for the contribution of others
• Respect for different points of view

8. Work History

Prior work history is a strong predictor of future behavior. It is important to be mindful that the presence of any of the following categories can be an asset or create problems in a partnership. The presence of these characteristics may not be present in the early stages of considering a partnership. Their relevance can be detected by a careful evaluation of a prospective partner’s past work history:

• Quality of work relationships
• Track record in successful accomplishments
• History of successful decision making
• Success in coping with conflict
• Ability to manage political skills
• Ability to define and pursue priorities to completion
• Ability to learn from mistakes
• Ability to set realistic expectation
• Ability to follow through on commitments

Selection of a business partner deserves the same attention given to selecting a marriage partner. Both involve long term commitments. The success or failure of the partnership will have major impact on the lives of all who are affected by it. It behooves the prospective partners to pay close attention to the characteristics for defining a partnership as described above. Each of these deserves special attention to enhance a successful outcome. HBM

This article is drawn from the book, titled Compatibility Breeds Success: How to Manage Your Relationship with Your Business Partner (Praeger Publishers) by Marvin Snider, Ph.D., organizational consultant. Available at Provided by S. J. Miller Communications,

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