There are a lot of good reasons to start a business with a partner or partners. Nobody excels at all the skills it takes to run a business, so a partner can complement your own capabilities. And I don’t know of a business owner who doesn’t welcome someone as a sounding board for ideas. But business partnerships can be just as highly charged as marital partnerships, and sadly, just as prone to failure.
Jeff Cornwall over at The Entrepreneurial Mind put together a good treatise on what to consider when contemplating a business partnership. He titled it To Partner or Not to Partner . He starts with the fundamental questions that apply to everything: “Why?”, “What?”, “How?” and “Who?” (“When?” and “Where?” are the other basic questions he doesn’t mention, but let’s consider them part of “What” for the moment.)
Cornwall lists a multitude of very important questions you should sit down and focus on. Here’s a sampler:
— Do you trust others working with you – Why or why not?
— What are your core values and how do you want to see them play out day-to-day in the business?
— How will decisions be made?
— Who will be the President of the company? What roles will the others play?
And don’t forget that once you’ve answered the questions honestly with yourself and selected a partner, work with an attorney to put together an agreement that includes “How will the partnership be dissolved if one of the partners wants out?” (The one who wants out might be you!)