Taking on the right partner can make or break a startup. Here are a few questions to ask yourself and your potential partner:
1. Goals and commitment levels. What do you each of you hope to get out of the business, financially and otherwise, over the short term and the long term? Do you need to get paid? How much, and when? Are you shooting for a big payout upon exit? What would make you happy? How much time are each of you willing to commit to the venture? What are your goals for work-life balance? How much travel are you willing to do? Are you prepared to make investments, or take on personal debt to finance the business?
2. Baggage. Have you been in partnerships before? If so, what worked out well for each of you? What failed? What baggage are you each bringing to the potential partnership as a result? What would previous partners say about you?
3. Strengths and weaknesses. What are each of your talents? Where are there gaps in your skill sets and experiences? Are there classic tradeoffs in your skills? For example, a product developer who is great at building, but poor at selling, or great at producing quality products but not so great at hitting tight deadlines? How about a sales-oriented person who is great at closing deals but not at delivering results for customers? Being aware of these differences can be helpful. Identifying deal-breakers before it’s too late: Priceless.
4. Workstyles. How do each of you like to lead and manage? Do you prefer doing or delegating? Would you rather work with large teams or small teams? What types of people do you like to work with? How do you handle conflict? Do you confront it directly, or let it fester until it blows up? Do you have issues that light your emotional fuses? Blind spots that get you in trouble from time to time? Have you taken the Myers-Briggs test, or an equivalent (e.g. humanmetrics.com), and compared your results?
5.Trial runs. Have you worked together in the past? If so, what went well and what didn’t? If not, can you find an opportunity to do a consulting project together? Can you work together on a temporary basis to see what it’s like before you commit for the long-term?
Got tips for finding the right partner(s)? Please share.