5 Characteristics to Look for in a Business Partner

Looking for a business partner? Make sure they have the following five characteristics.

By Nate Nead

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

There's power in numbers. For business owners and startup founders, having a partner to lean on is something that's extremely important. With the right person in the fold, you can instantly increase your business venture's potential and pave the way for new opportunities. But the flip side of that equation is true as well. The wrong business partner can wreak havoc on your business and threaten to deteriorate it from the inside out.

Bringing on a business partner isn't something you take lightly. It's not like going to the YMCA to play a game of pickup basketball and partnering up with the first person who looks like they have some game. There's a lot of research, planning and due diligence that must be performed.

As you search for the perfect option for your business, I'd recommend looking for the following five aspects:

1. Trustworthiness

A business partner is nothing without trust. If you can't trust your partner, everything else is just noise. The challenge lies in trying to determine someone's level of trustworthiness when you don't have a pre-existing relationship.

Evaluating trustworthiness often comes down to conversation and track record. You need to have multiple conversations with any potential partner — sitting down and discussing life, beliefs, vision, background, situational factors, etc. You should also have conversations with people who know them personally and professionally. Notice the way people talk about your prospective partner. Do they seem to feel positively, negatively or indifferently?

Their track record also speaks volumes. Review their resume and the businesses they've worked for in the past. Were these companies and/or departments better off when they left? Were there any questionable decisions that act as red warning flags? Don't be afraid to dig.

Related: 10 Characteristics of Unstoppable Partnerships

2. Compatibility

You'll spend a lot of time with your business partner. You don't have to be best friends, but you do have to be compatible. There must be a healthy dynamic that allows you both to work together for the betterment of the business. Evaluating potential compatibility often comes down to a gut feeling.

3. Complementary skills

While compatibility is important, you don't want to bring on a business partner who has an identical skill set. This won't move the needle much for your business. Ideally, you find someone who has complementary skills. For example, if you're good at innovation and product development, you might want a founder who has more experience with sales and marketing.

Ideally, you and your business partner will both oversee separate parts of the business. This allows you to each specialize in an area and avoid micromanaging the other one.

4. Large network

Networking is a huge part of launching and growing a business. In the early stages, you're highly dependent on your network to forge partnerships and get the word out about your new venture. And even as you grow, your network will open the doors for new opportunities.

While you already have your own network, you want a partner who also has a large network. This gives you/the business instant access to hundreds or thousands of other connections. Between your network and theirs, you'll notice an instant increase in potential.

Related: The Top 9 Reasons Why Business Partnerships Fail

5. Creativity and problem-solving skills

As you know, entrepreneurship is all about solving problems. Small problems, big problems, emergencies, chronic issues — your business will face them all. You need a business partner who is a skilled problem-solver. And at the heart of problem-solving, you'll find creativity.

Creativity can't be taught. You can put someone in an environment where it brings out their best creative qualities, but it's not like you can teach someone what it takes to be creative. When bringing on a partner, pick their brain about different ideas, concepts and opportunities to see how they tackle problems. This will give you a really strong indication of how creative they are.

Bringing on a business partner isn't something to take lightly. If you want to think about it through the analogy of relationships, you're not just asking someone out on a date — you're offering a marriage proposal. If things go sideways, severing this business relationship will be stressful, expensive and highly consequential. But if things go well, there's no cap on your potential together. Do your due diligence, and don't rush the decision.

Related: 6 Things to Consider Before Partnering Up

Nate Nead

Managing Director at InvestNet

Nate Nead is the principal and managing director at InvestNet, a direct online-investing portal for sophisticated, institutional investors. Nead has nearly two decades of experience in mergers, acquisitions, private equity and direct-market investing.

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