How to Have a Successful Business Partnership

“Successful people in this world are those who get up and look for circumstances they want. If they can’t find them, they make them.”

~ George Bernard Shaw

How to Have a Successful Business Partnership

By Andrea Novakowski

You and your friend have a great idea for a business. Your business plan is already half done. You can’t wait to get started: what could be better than working with a friend every day?

To launch a successful business with another person, you need more than a business plan. You have to plan your approach to working together, too.

Here are some questions to ask yourselves before you rush headlong into business with your friend – or with anyone else, for that matter!

  1. Why is a partnership right for this business? Are you getting into business together for the right reasons or the wrong ones? A right reason might be that you’re compatible and have the same vision for the business. A wrong reason might be your fear that you can’t do it alone.
  2. Do you share the same goals, objectives and values? Make sure the two of you are in complete alignment. Be open and clear and have lots of honest discussions. This is your chance to find out how well you two communicate.
  3. What has your past experience with partners been like? Think about the kinds of people you work best with. Everyone has a different style. Some people are workaholics and others are more laid back. Some people love a good fight, while others appreciate calm and peacefulness. Are you and the other person a good fit? If not, don’t force it.
  4. What are the strengths and positive qualities each of you bring to the partnership?
  5. Who will assume which roles and responsibilities? Who will do sales, manage employees, handle the accounting? Is this a fair division of labor? It may help to list each person’s preferred tasks (independent of each other). Identify where there will be sole control and where there is overlap. Ask yourselves what’s missing and still needed to run the organization.
  6. When and how will you communicate with each other? Will you meet daily? Weekly? How will decisions be made if you disagree?
  7. How will you share start-up costs, expenses, profit? How much income do each of you need?
  8. What are your short-term goals? What do you each think the company will look like in three years when it’s humming along?
  9. What are your long-term goals? Envision the conclusion and timing of the end of your business. Are you looking to make it a lifestyle business with a finite income goal, or do you want to be the next Facebook? What is your exit strategy?
  10. Are both of you 100% committed to the partnership?

Even if you have known a person for years, a business partnership is very different than a friendship. Try collaborating on a few projects to get a feel for how you work together. A great book I often recommend to my clients is Partnership: Small Business Start-Up Kit by Daniel Sitarz. This book provides a pre-partnership worksheet, a partnership agreement, and other forms you’ll need to start a business together.

Coaching Call To Action

Thinking about a partnership?  Do you really know the other person?  What will you do this week to increase your knowledge of the other person and move closer to making the right decision for you?