Characteristics to Evaluate in a Prospective Partner

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When a female business owner is considering a business partnership, evaluating her prospective partner based on several criteria increases the likelihood that the match will yield positive results for both parties. While gut instinct and good chemistry may make the partnership friendly and enjoyable, those two components on their own do not necessarily create a recipe for business success. Rather, careful evaluation of specific business-related components of the prospective partner’s personality and experience can lead to entrepreneurial harmony – and business success.

Extensive research with women business owners about all aspects of business ownership reveals the importance of due diligence when selecting a business partner. Further, research shows there are seven main characteristics to consider in prospective partners. This article discusses the details of two of those characteristics.

Characteristic 1: Suitability for Entrepreneurship

The question: “Is the prospective partner well-suited for being self-employed?”

Although a prospective partner may have great ideas, tons of money, or be a complete sales superstar, that doesn’t necessarily mean she is cut out to be a great businessperson. If both partners have been self-employed before, the question of suitability may be easy to answer. If one of the partners (or neither) has been self-employed, consider the financial risks of self-employment, the self-discipline required, family tension, and the challenges of working at home (if applicable), just to get started.

It is important to realize that even if a prospective partner seems like a perfect match, if he or she is not suited to the entrepreneurial lifestyle, then he or she may end up unhappy or dissatisfied, or even unknowingly causing business problems.

If a prospective partner is cut out for business ownership and/or has succeeded at running a business of his or her own already, then the partners must determine whether they are well-suited to work together. If they’re not sure, they should do themselves a favor and discuss the challenges of entrepreneurship as much as they discuss the possibilities.

Characteristic 2: Compatible Business Goals and Values

The question: “Are there any conflicts around the partners’ business goals and values that would prohibit or jeopardize their ability to successfully partner together?”

Different types of business owners strive for different balances in their work. For a partnership to work well, the prospective partners must determine, ahead of time, how well their goals for business and for work-life balance fit together – and if they are not similar, how the partners can work out the differences.

For example, if one partner sees business ownership as a way to spend more time with her family and the other expects to put in 60-hour work weeks, the two partners may not be compatible. If one partner wants to build a multi-million dollar empire and the other wants to run a small, home-based business, they may not be compatible.

Here are some examples of partnerships between two types of business owners – and their potential high points and conflicts:

• Jane Dough and Go Jane Go: Both are driven to succeed, but for different reasons, with Jane Dough looking for growth and profit while Go Jane Go strives for service and deep customer relationships. To avoid miscommunication, these two types should discuss how to be of service while also hitting profit goals. Also, it is important for Jane Dough and Go Jane Go to keep lines of communication open, because Go Jane Go may tend to shoulder more than her share of work.

• Accidental Jane and Merry Jane: This partnership has the potential to be strong, because both types want life balance and time freedom. One point to consider: finding the right mix of business to deliver sufficient income to make both partners happy.

• Accidental Jane and Tenacity Jane: This partnership may be tricky because Accidental Jane wants an ideal job while Tenacity Jane may seek business growth (although she lacks experience or important skills). To succeed, they must discuss expectations about time and effort, as well as how they will handle financial decisions. Tenacity Jane may also seek a mentor who can help her develop skills that Accidental Jane may care less about.

Women business owners should keep in mind that all partner pairings can work, given a commitment to open dialog and mutual understanding. The best exercise to determine whether your business goals are in harmony – whether they’re two different entrepreneurial types or two entrepreneurs of the same type – is to put together a business plan, or at least start sketching out the process. The business planning process has the potential to reveal significant differences in partners’ long-term goals and approach. Those differences do not necessarily mean the end of a business partnership before it even begins. Rather, a complementary approach, in which partners consider all points of view and arrive at solutions that draw on their mutual experiences, will strengthen all business decisions.

One more key consideration: essential and desirable values. From creativity to risk-taking, and religion to parenting styles, all values come into play when two people work closely together.

If business partners share core values, their relationship will likely be more harmonious and rewarding. It is important for partners to understand each other’s entrepreneurial type and values, to increase the possibility that the partnership will thrive.

When two prospective partners are compatible in terms of entrepreneurial style and experience, and in terms of core values, their partnership is more likely to produce excellent business results that meet both their needs and desires.

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