Essential Questions to Ask your Potential Business Partner

Once you have decided that you do, in fact, need a business partner, ensure you are partnering with someone who is as committed to the business as you are. You’ll also want to make sure they can deliver what they say they can and are who they say they are. Here are 10 essential questions to ask your potential business partner:

1. What do you bring to the table that I may not?

Find a business partner whose professional and personal skills complement yours. Your partner should be strong in areas where you may be lacking.

2. What does your financial situation look like?

Your potential partner will likely make short-term decisions that are shaped by their financial history and current financial situation. Ensure that what they agree to do financially in the business lines up with their current personal or other professional financial obligations.

3. How much time will you have to commit to the business?

Ensure that you and your partner are in agreement as to how much time each should be spending on the business venture. Agree on expectations of time commitments before agreeing to go into business together.

4. How strong is your commitment to this business, and why?

Asking your potential partner why they want to go into this business with you will help you to gauge their commitment level. Enthusiasm for a new business tends to wane after the initial excitement wears off, so make sure you’re in business with someone who is in it for the long haul.

5. How are things at home?

Your business may take a back seat when what’s going on at home with your partner begins to affect their commitment to the business. You may even wish to meet with your potential partner’s spouse first, perhaps at a dinner with you and your spouse.

6. What’s your reaction when the going gets tough?

Ask your potential partner how they have handled tough situations in the past in business. Watch out for red flags that may indicate that your business partnership is as negotiable as doing the right thing may be for your partner when things are tough.

7. What are your questions for me?

You want a partner who takes the business and the roles in it as seriously as you do. A serious partner should be asking questions to ensure they understand fully what they are getting into now, before finding out months down the road that they might not be interested.

8. With whom in your community can I verify your information?

If you need someone who is great with employees, get some references from past employees. If you need someone who has money connections, then find out a way to verify those connections. Ask for personal and professional references. How your partner is viewed in the community will affect your business.

9. Do you mind if we put everything in writing?

Putting everything in writing has a way of exposing problem areas ahead of time and sealing a commitment. It also ensures that the business will not be destroyed if a partner turns out not to be fulfilling their end of the bargain.

10. What happens if we can’t work it out?

Find a good lawyer who specializes in startups to address common unforeseen problems before you commit to a partnership. Often, emotions are running high when problems occur, so having an agreement in place ahead of time to address these issues ensures the best possible resolutions.


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