Guest post by Michael Duell
A few years back, my family and I were celebrating my grandparents’ 65th wedding anniversary. During the celebration, someone asked my grandfather what was the secret to their long-lasting union. His quick response was clear and to the point: “Find the right person to share this life with and everything else will work out fine.” Reflecting on my grandfather’s personal response, I could not help, but think that his sage advice was also applicable to the professional world.
As many of us already know too well, finding the right partner in business is just as important as finding the right one to share your personal life with. Regardless of the industry or field of endeavor, a partnership is very similar to a marriage as you are sharing your professional life with one or more individuals. As with most marriages, there is not one single business partnership that felt it was going to fail before it got off the ground. Like an avid groomsmen on his honeymoon, everyone is excited and thirsty for the new partnership to be successful and make everyone rich, everyone is positive and happy. But, professionally speaking, should you get married and is this the person you should be marrying? Here are some questions to consider before you say, “I do.”
Do you and this potential partner have a shared vision and compatible professional ethics?
You and your partner should have a shared vision for the future of the company. I would also argue that it is equally important you and your partner have a common belief in ethical standards for operating the business and the treatment of your clients.
What do you know about the person’s individual finances?
This can be a difficult subject to discuss with anyone, but your future partner’s finances will have a direct impact on you and asking for a credit report is a reasonable and prudent request since you will most likely need to open accounts for any new venture and the personal credit histories for all partners may be necessary to open business accounts.
You know they are great during the best of times, but how will your potential partner react when business is not going so well?
When things are going great, it seems everyone is too, but the true test of anyone’s character is when times are tough. In business, we all had or will have our share of difficult days. What is this partner’s attitude in times of stress and are they an advantage or disadvantage to you and the business?
Are there skeletons that may have an effect on the business?
We all have a personal and professional closet. It would be astute to know as many “skeletons” as possible and about your partner’s professional past.
If something were to happen to you, what would happen with the business?
What would your partner do with the business if something happened to you? Would they keep the business going or sell off the assets? Some partners may sell off the assets and keep the money or try and force a quick sale that may not be in the best interest of your family who may know little if anything about your partnership.
Would you be better off without a partner?
This is the most difficult question to answer, but one that has the most consequences.
These are just a few of many questions that should be addressed before entering into a business with partner(s). If you don’t know the answers to these questions, than it would be fair to suggest you reconsider this “marriage” or at least sit down with your potential partner and get to know them a little better.
A business is very much like having a kid and choosing your partner wisely will save you headaches and money. There are advantages to being a single parent, but there are also rewards to taking on a partner. If you are going to have partner(s), keep in mind even the best marriages, professional or personal, will see their share of good and turbulent times. The more you know about your professional spouse before you say, “I do,” the better of you will be.
[NOTE: Thanks to Michael S. Duell for this guest author contribution. Mr. Duell is the Director of Business Operations at Ruyle & Ruyle, a firm that includes small business corporate law as one of its specialities. If you are looking for a good boutique law firm that caters to small businesses and startups, consider Ruyle & Ruyle.]