How To Pick a Business Partner


If you’ve ever wondered how to pick a business partner, then you’re going to love this because we’re talking about partnerships and how sometimes they can go awry.

When you think of great partnerships you might think of…

Lois and Clark. Steve Wozniac and Steve Jobs of Apple. Or Larry Page and Sergei Brin of Google.

And these are all great teams and partners, but today I want to talk about the good and bad side of entering into a business partnership. Then we’ll dive into the most important questions to ask yourself before you pick a business partner.

My Business Partnerships: From Bad To Good

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In my very first few weeks in business for myself, I wanted to create a product, any product almost, because I had learned that this was what you were supposed to do to leverage your time.

Of course, I’ve since learned a lot about building businesses online and launching products but here’s what happened next.

I started to work on creating a recipe book, but soon realized that it would take months to create all the recipes, take photos, edit, and design the thing.

So when a friend of mine approached me to partner on creating a recipe book together, I thought it was the perfect solution!

She was a master at creating recipes and taking photos, and had a bunch of them ready to go. We quickly agreed on a name for our book, and thought we had all the tough decisions made.

We forged ahead, and she started to send over her content. I started to put things together: with my writing and recipes alongside hers.

Unfortunately, we hadn’t really agreed on any of the big things for this project. In my mind, this was an equal partnership where we’d both be authors of the project.

In her mind, she was getting a free e-book designer in exchange for creating all the recipes and supplying photos.

As I worked on our project, my partner’s emails started to get more demanding. Asking to see proofs of the book, requiring changes in the way things were being worded or presented, and with each email things got more heated.

It became so bad that I didn’t want to work on the project anymore, and I avoided my inbox like the plague.

But the moment I knew I had to call off the whole project was when I felt physical stomach pains after reading an email from my partner.

Finally, I called her and we mutually decided to part ways.

We both felt the same intense sense of relief after we dissolved our partnership, and since then we’ve gone on to publish our own individual recipe books to much success on our own.

The moral of the story here is that you shouldn’t partner with someone because you feel like you’re lacking something or because you don’t think you can do it by yourself.

You can always hire a designer, a virtual assistant to help schedule and keep things on track, and you don’t need to make every new friend a business partner.

How To Pick a Business Partner So It Adds To Your Success

Now I’d love to contrast this story of partnership gone wrong with another time where partnership helped my business bloom. This time I was partnering with designer extraordinaire Natasha Lakos, and we had clear expectations and boundaries set upfront.

She did the design, my team and I did the implementation. We both brought new clients into the fold, and we were always on the same page, even when things got tricky.

When it was time for me to move on from web design entirely, our partnership evolved naturally and we’ve been able to continue to send potential clients to each other in different capacities, too.

More recently, my husband and I have also partnered in new business projects through our AccessAlly brand. We’re developing software and WordPress plugins together, and we’ve got big plans for things to come next.

I’ve had quite a few questions about how we balance our personal relationship and our business relationship, so stay tuned for a future Off The Charts episode all about this topic! In this case we’re quite literally married and business allies, too.

Different Types of Business Partnerships

As you can see, these are just a few of the different types of business partnerships.

You can look at short term partnerships like joint ventures, where two people team up for a cross-promotion, or to create an offering together.

Then, there are strategic alliances like complementary businesses sending each other clients. And of course, the one type of business partnership many of us think about first: the long term business partnership.

One thing that I’ve learned about taking on new business partners is that if you wouldn’t be willing to marry the person, you shouldn’t be forming a business partnership together.

Partnership in life is a lot like partnership in business, it is not to be taken lightly.

If you are considering taking on a business partner, it’s a good idea to start off with a small project or something that allows you to work together without the high stakes that most of us jump into at first.

My colleagues Nisha Moodley and Sarah Jenks have done just that: starting out by hosting a free call together, then gradually increasing their level of partnership to where they’re now hosting an in person event together.

It’s also a good idea to look for a partner who complements you. If your business partner is like a clone of you, it won’t be as much of a beneficial partnership.

On the other hand, if you’ve got totally different ideas about where the project or business is headed, you’ll definitely want to avoid forming a partnership.

Another example is the incredible set of speakers that are presenting at Off The Charts Live. These powerful women entrepreneurs are joining together, in a 2-day mini-partnership and I’m honored to be associated with them and to present them to you.

How To Pick a Business Partner

So before you undertake your next joint venture or partnership consider these questions:

  • Where do you see this project or business going in the next few years?
  • Do you see it as something that will become a long standing product or offering of your business for a long time?
  • Who is responsible for keeping the project going if someone wants to “buy out”?
  • How will you divide the sweat equity, the work, and any financial investments with ownership of the project or business?

What Are Your Partnership Tips?

Now I want to hear your partnership stories, good or bad. Leave a comment below with how you’ve been able to use partnerships to grow your business, or what partnership lessons you’ve learned.

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I’m the founder of a tech startup called AccessAlly, a powerful course and membership platform for coaching industry leaders.

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