As a business leader who built a company from 2 to 2,200 employees with a business partner, and as a business coach who has work with many business partnerships for over a decade, I know what gets said between business partners and what is often left unsaid. Today’s post is about the questions business partners should, but often fail to ask.
Business partners usually value honest communication, but when they’re busy or just starting out, they don’t always know what information to ask for or to volunteer. They tend to rely too much on assumptions and intuition–trusting that the kinks will work themselves out.
Well, the kinks don’t always work themselves out. Sometimes the kinks can pose major problems at highly inconvenient and stressful times.
If you’re considering entering into a partnership or if you are already “married,” here are some questions you should ask:
- What will happen if we no longer need each other?
- How long will we be able to accept the differences in our skill sets?
- Do we both have as much to lose?
- Who will mediate a tie if we disagree about direction?
- If one of us contributes more, will that person be okay with getting paid the same?
- Are we both life-long learners?
- What does success look like, and do our definitions match?
- How do each of us define loyalty? And where does loyalty end (under what conditions)?
- What are our non-negotiables?
- What is the exit that we each hope for?
Privately, you should also ask yourself:
- Can I trust this person with my entire net worth and reputation?
- Will my business partner’s spouse be an issue for me?
- How long can I see being “married” to my business partner?
- Is this someone I want to spend 10 hours a day with for decades?
In my experience, it’s best to ask these questions early on, even if they lead to some uncomfortable discussions. That level of discomfort will only grow, as will resentment, if these discussions are put off. These discussions lead to important decisions–decisions that are best made during relatively stress-free conditions.
Don’t worry if you haven’t asked and answered some of these questions. It’s really never to late to build this level of honesty and transparency with your business partner.