Choosing a Partner – Friend or Family?

August 28, 2007

by Brian Acord

I was recently asked whether or not it was a good idea to have a business partner who is a friend or family member. The following highlight my response.

Finding the right partner is always a very tricky decision. Deciding on a partner who is a friend or family member definitely exacerbates that decision and can strengthen or destroy the previous relationship. I believe that there are three big issues at hand, namely:

1) Do you really need a partner? If you have decided to pick a business partner then you are typically looking to fill some deficiency that you couldn’t otherwise hire. There is nothing wrong with recognizing your weaknesses and finding help to fill that role, but my advice is that you never partner with someone you couldn’t hire unless it is for this exact reason. (aside: When you don’t know what you don’t know, you are guilty of unconscious incompetence…everyone has their blind spots and a partner can be a good way to work around them.)

2) Personality fit. Can the individuals in question work together without pulling the relationship “trump” card or rubbing your nose in an issue over Thanksgiving dinner. I have seen family based companies that do a very good job of separating the office and the home and I have seen others who make each other feel guilty for taking a vacation to the wrong destination or wearing the wrong shirt.

3) Does your potential partner really have the skill set, experience, and insights necessary to complement your company and your management style? Too often friends and family members are chosen because it is a quick, easy, and convenient decision. Unless you are opening a lemonade stand on the neighborhood corner, I do not think you should partner with anyone unless they match exactly what you are looking for. Making a quick decision now will cause great pain and consternation in the long run. No matter what your current concerns and issues are, they will not be solved in the long run by bringing in the wrong partner today. Take your time to conduct a thorough search, use your network, and make sure that if you partner, you find the right one and not necessarily the closest one…and yes, sometimes that can be friends and/or family members.


One comment

  1. I agree 100%. In addition, anyone looking for a business partner should do a personal one on one interview and possibly a background check on their potential business partner. They should also ask for a resume and references in order to check the person’s qualifications. Working in a business with someone else comes with a lot of additional risks and accountability. Both partners should sit down and draw up a partnership agreement together, then have it reviewed by a neutral 3rd party (an attorney). If you don’t already have a friend or family member in mind, then a good place to start looking for a potential business partner is on BizPartnerHunt.com
    Posting and searching for business partners at BizPartnerHunt.com is absolutely free.

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