A successful business partnership has many similarities with a successful marriage. In some ways it is even more challenging to build such a partnership.

The first question you should ask yourself is, “Do you really need a partner?” If you can create a viable business without a partner you are probably well advised to take that route. It may be that a partner is essential to complement your talents, to sell to customers, to help handle the work load or to bring needed financing. In that case, you and that partner should consider together whether it will work for you both by going through the following checklist.

It is often said that you learn more from your failures than from your successes. This checklist reflects that learning experience combined with what others have set out in similar checklists.

You should consider every one of the twelve items in this list in an honest and open way with your partner before either of you commit to the partnership. The more critical elements in that real life situation are discussed in the case study that follows the checklist.

Successful Partnerships

Key Partner Attributes

1. Absolute trust in each other

This is rightly set as the #1 condition since without it disaster may well occur at some time in the future. One Friend I have said that this meant

you would be comfortable in leaving your wallet (or handbag) for safe keeping with your partner. I think that is an excellent test of your trust. The ultimate condition here is that such trust will be durable even if circumstances go awry.

2. Complementary skills

If you both have the same skill set, then the reason for the partnership is somewhat weaker. When skills are complementary, much richer creativity is possible and you have the benefit of different points of view.

3. Compatible working habits

Nothing will sap motivation faster than feeling your partner is not pulling his/her weight. You do not need to follow the same work schedule and indeed different work schedules may give better coverage to satisfy customer needs. Each partner should feel that there is a fair division of labor.

4. Good communication

Nothing will erode that absolute trust faster than a failure to communicate important news or decisions. With modern technology and smart phones there is no excuse for not staying in touch on important issues.

Key Partnership Factors

1. Shared Goals

The priority and timing for the goals to be achieved by the partnership should be equally satisfactory for both partners. You might even discuss alternative scenarios to cover how goals might need to be adjusted if things do not go exactly as planned.

2. Agreed Business Plan

You should have at least an outline business plan on how those shared goals will be achieved. This should be a realistic commitment that sets out the human, capital and cash resources required on a timeline.

3. Market awareness and savvy

It is critical to have identified a market need for the products and services you will sell and be aware of any competition that could make the sales projections uncertain. A SWOT analysis checking strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats is a good way to assure yourselves that you are not being overly optimistic. You can also review realistic Plan B’s if some of those threats occur.

4. Agile management

The race goes to the swift. Rapid identification of the time when action is needed is important. Then appropriate actions must be taken with vigor.

5. Good decision processes

The company radar should provide appropriate intelligence and data as needed for timely decision-making. Appropriate team members should be involved to ensure there is full team commitment and motivation to the chosen action plan.

6. Strong execution

A major cause of company failure is that the right actions, which have been correctly identified, are not executed with appropriate energy and timeliness. Partners need to be of one mind on this.