Choosing partners

Most people start businesses with partners. Some partner for financial reasons, others because they are old friends. But it’s important to choose the right person. Here are a few lessons learnt on choosing the right partner

Shared values: we all talk about values but few understand what “values” mean exactly. Values are the beliefs and attitudes that guide our day to day decision making. The basic underlying algorithms that define how we behave and will behave. Values include the importance of money, the importance of professionalism and honesty etc. Family, Religion, culture, upbringing, all contribute to the construction of beliefs and values. Long term relationships rarely last if values done synchronize. Before you partner up, make sure you understand your partner’s values. If yours don’t align with theirs, chances are, you’ll break apart soon, or worse – you’ll expend an enormous amount of energy in staying together. Here’s more on values.

Priorities: Sit down with the average person and 90% and you can agree on 90% of values. What differentiates us is how we arrange this long list of values. Life, for most of us, doesn’t seem to have enough room to execute everything so we end up prioritizing only the “important things in life”. Obedience to God, money, social good, you name it – there are people out there that tell you it’s most important.

Legal: Don’t partner with a person who wants to be vague or unclear on legal or financial matters. Lawyers tend to think of worst case scenarios in legal documentation – that’s the way they are. Unfortunately, most legal documentation comes up at the very beginning of the company when relationships between partners are fragile or are so good that the talk of worst case scenarios becomes an un pleasantry to be avoided. My advice: do it anyway. Be clear on who owns what and going through worst case scenarios will reveal much about the other person. Just make sure you don’t get too hung on up improbable what-ifs.

Finance: Be open and transparent. The basics of accounting (balance sheets and cash flows) have been there that long for a reason. I would say money is probably the number 1 reason for conflict. So make sure your book-keeper is chosen with consensus and that you synchronize on the books often.

Patience: Considering the fact that there are trillions of people out there, you’d think the odds of finding the perfect match are pretty good. They’re not. Our worlds are much smaller than the earth (though that seems to be changing fast) and you have to be patient and compromising. A genuine effort to understand the other’s perspective helps. Social-psychologists say, rationalize things that bother you (e.g. try to see why a person’s priorities are the way they are) but don’t do that with things that make you happy – just enjoy those.

Part gracefully: Life isn’t perfect and you can’t foresee everything. When you part ways, part gracefully. Most of the time roads split up because people realize one more thing in life that they didn’t want to do. That’s nothing to be offended about. All of us are on that journey.