Pick a partner with same vision, like values
 Many successful companies operate as a partnership. Either they start off with partners or they reach the point where the founder needs help to take the business to the next level.
  Finding the right partner can make the difference between success and failure. The choice often hinges on whether the beliefs and values of the people involved are aligned.
 Take the example of two entrepreneurs who started a consulting firm. One partner viewed customers as the lifeblood of the business; the other saw them as sources of income who could easily be discarded. The partnership fell apart very quickly.
 Here are other issues to consider when choosing partners:
 Lifestyles: A partnership usually assumes that all parties will contribute equally within the unit. If this is not worked out at the beginning, the partnership will not last.
 For example, two women decided to get together to run a marketing company, with the assumption that both would contribute equally. But, one partner had two young children and wanted to be home as much as possible. The other partner had no children.
  Their business went well until it reached a point where significant amounts of extra time were required to meet client obligations.
 Chemistry: Partners must like and respect one another. Yet many owner-managers leap at the opportunity to get a partner to help with the business with out determining whether the chemistry works.
 One software entrepreneur had been working hard to create and market some innovative programs, but realized she needed help to manage the business. A friend introduced her to a professional manager with experience in rapidly growing software companies. After one meeting she brought him in as a partner and felt that she had solved her problem.
 Within months, her staff was leaving and she was spending much of her time arguing with her new partner, who turned out to be a bully. After much damage and cost, she finally ended the partnership.
 Strengths and weaknesses: Great partners share the same vision for the company but bring different skills to the table. Typically, one is sales and marketing-orientated while another prefers operations and administration.
 Partnerships that join people with the same strengths and weaknesses only work when the partners can hire the skills to offset their weaknesses. In most professional firms, partners have strong technical knowledge and most are good at client management. Their weaknesses in administration and managing detail have to be overcome through hiring.
  Stability: It is important to check prospective partners carefully, focusing on such factors as credit and financial history. A partner with limited funds is not an asset when financing is tight.
  Also, meet with a prospective partner's spouse or significant other. If their relationship is strong and positive, you may expect someone who can focus on the business. If the relationship seems negative, your partner may be spending energy on personal relationships that should be devoted to the business.
 Talk to, as many people as possible who have dealt with a prospective partner. Both of you should have a personality profiles completed and reviewed together with a professional counselor who can highlight areas of potential future conflict.
  Published November 23, 1998
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