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Getting to know your business partner, their skills and intentions is key to a successful future partnership. You should look for someone with similar goals, strengths and weaknesses that compliment your own and a strong vision for the future. Here are some questions to get you started which you should expand upon during discussions to find out whether this person is a good fit for a partnership.
1. What are you hoping to get out of our partnership?
This is a great first question to ask to help gauge their expectations. Listen to their goals and analyse whether they align with your own. If your visions for the company are completely different then you are likely to face issues further down the line. Consider both their personal goals as well as their hopes for the business.
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2. What is your financial situation at the minute?
Knowing about your potential partner’s financial situation is another important element of this discussion. If someone can’t adequately manage their own finances, this suggests that they lack the discipline to properly manage money in general, which could be detrimental for a business.
Make sure that they are comfortable financially and in a strong position to invest money into the business. A confident answer is what you are looking for.
3. Can you give evidence of relevant experience that you will bring to this role?
For someone to add something to your business, they must have relevant experience in a similar field. Here you will be looking for essential skills like strong management style, empathy, creativity and strategic thinking, alongside examples to prove it.
You also want to know if they have experience in scaling businesses or saving money, for example reducing costs at lease review or identifying great value at commercial property auctions. This is a good time to analyse whether this person will really be contributing something great to the company.
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4. What approach do you take in a crisis?
It is important to know how this person would react in difficult situations. Someone whose answer suggests they immediately go on the offensive is not a good sign.
You should look for someone who thinks about the issue and finds out the facts, comes up with a plan, acts as a strong leader with the support of trusted employees and implements their plan whilst remaining flexible to further change. Taking a rational approach is far better than quickly reacting without knowing all the information.
5. Where would you hope to see the business in 5 years?
Similarly to the first question, this one is all about discovering if this person has a similar vision to your own. Here you should look for a serious and achievable response.
If someone says ‘I want to make this the biggest brand in the world’ when you are a start up, you know this person probably isn’t a realist. Of course you want someone who is ambitious, but a measured response backed up with some interesting insights is much better than someone simply saying they want it to do really well.
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6. How do you feel about risk-taking?
There are multiple ways you can take this question. If you are a risk taker yourself, perhaps it would be good for someone who is less inclined to take a risk to create a healthy balance and sense of perspective.
Alternatively, you might find it frustrating to have someone question your instincts, so this will all depend on the type of person you are. Listen to what they have to say and assess whether you think your styles could compliment eachother or whether they will clash.
7. How do you measure success?
Success can be measured in many different ways, so there isn’t necessarily a right answer here. Instead, what you should be looking for is someone who is always striving for success, as in a business, there is going to be room for growth.
Rather than seeing success as hitting a particular target or sales number, your business partner should look to set regular goals and always try to go above and beyond them.
8. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
A great benefit of having a partner is that you can both bring different strengths to the table and balance out each other’s weaknesses. You should look for someone who brings something to the table that you lack, as if you both have the same weaknesses, an area of your business will be weak. Also, bare in mind that someone with strengths that you don’t possess could take your business to another level.
9. How much time are you looking to invest in the business?
Most businesses require a significant investment of time, especially when they are new, so your expectations about how much time each of you will spend should be laid out early on.
If one person is investing significantly more time into the business then issues are likely to arise if this isn’t initially discussed. Find out if they have other commitments and realistically how many hours a week they are able to commit to. This will then be reflected in the discussion of the next question.
10. What expectations do you have in terms of the division of profits?
Something you should find out towards the start of the process is your business partner’s expectations when it comes to shares in the business. You should tell them the current split between shareholders and then ask them this question.
It is up to you to weigh up their request in relation to how much they have invested financially, how much time they will be investing and also which skills they will be bringing to the business. If their expectations are unrealistic, then that must be discussed, as disagreements in this area are hard to rectify further down the line.