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A guide to choosing a business partner

Choosing your business partner is one of the most significant decisions you will ever make in your career. It can define your company’s success, the commercial direction you take, and even redefine your outlook on life.

Of course, this decision is important to arrive at slowly because of how badly it can backfire if you choose the wrong person. There are enough examples of bad business partnerships that ended in financial and personal ruin to fill several books, which is why you must choose your business partner carefully.

The good news is that your instincts are usually correct, just like when you meet new people in your personal life. If you enter into the partnership with both your eyes wide open, having done your due diligence, then you are likely to enjoy a successful partnership.

Here is a guide to choosing a business partner:

Don’t let them become a security threat

A key risk of bringing anyone into your organization at a high level is that they could be a security risk. Until you learn to trust a person implicitly, it is difficult to decide whether to entrust them with sensitive information, such as bank details, future company plans, and employee data.

This is because many insider threats involve a contractor, business partner, or another senior party connected to a company either leaking its data for profit, espionage or simply bringing the organization down altogether.

Although it is impossible to completely control whether someone is a security threat or not (they could leak data accidentally), it is worth doing a full background check on your potential business partner and getting to know them personally over an extended period before letting them access any sensitive (and valuable) information.

You could also integrate insider threat management software into your company processes, allowing you to spot a data leak as it happens.

You can find out more about insider threat management at Proofpoint.

Ask yourself the difficult questions

A simple way to decide who to choose as your business partner is to ask yourself a few difficult questions. This is a great way, to be honest with yourself and listen to your gut instinct (which is usually right).

For example, you could ask yourself whether, theoretically, you could see yourself working with this person for the rest of your life. If the answer is no or you aren’t sure, then it is likely that the potential partner is not right for you or your company.

Business partnerships should be built for the long term, so if you can imagine yourself ending it in the medium term, something is probably wrong.

Another important question to ask yourself is whether you would trust them with the keys to your house when you’re away on vacation. It is a simple trust exercise, but the answer will tell you everything you need to know about their trustworthiness and reliability.

Keep asking yourself these types of questions until you find someone who fits your criteria.

Assess what they are bringing to your business

When bringing a business partner on board, they need to be offering something substantial to the party. Quite aside from the potential security risk, you will be splitting your profits with this person, so the payoff has to be worth it.

There is no right answer to this, as long as they are suitably valuable to your company. For instance, they could be bringing extra funding, vast experience in a particular area you are lacking an understanding in, or they have status within the industry you operate in.

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