Many individuals seek a partnership and in some cases, it's a good idea. What makes for a good partnership? When should you avoid it like the Plague? Let's focus first on why you partner.
If the partner brings a skill set, such as being a stronger financial manager, it could be positive. Stronger people skills can also be a missing asset. Decide if you can hire into the voided area instead of partnering. It's much easier to fire a manager or administrator, than it would be to fire a partner.
The second reason is that the partner may have the financial resources you need. You may be bringing more of the hands-on piece of running the business, and they will be more of a financial person. This could be a fit if you have the talent, but not the financial resources. Consider these options, if you don't have access to the money. Ask yourself if you can borrow the money. A bank won't undermine your authority or tell you how to run your business. The bank certainly has the ability to pull the plug, but a partner can drive you crazy with their input. Another option is, if you only need a partner from a financial standpoint, finding an investor. Find an investor that you can simply pay back what they loaned you and a return on their investment.
Another good reason to partner would be if it gives you a wider reach. If they have stronger key relationships or can possibly bring something to the table you cannot. For example, more experience. Their tenure may add credibility and open doors to you. If they can break into a certain niche, it can be beneficial to you. We would like to say in this day and age that there is no such thing as bias or prejudice, unfortunately they still do exist. Another aspect of this can be the local person. If you're an outsider or new to a community, having local ties can help. Once again, you should ask yourself, "Can I hire the person versus partnering with them?"
One more reason to partner is if it's the only way to get into business, and that is your dream. A piece of something may be better than not being able to make this dream a reality. I often see people with the resources, but they don't want the responsibility of running a business. This is a great opportunity to find an operating partner. If credit, for example, is an issue, a partner may be the only way to obtain a business. You can always wait for another time, but the opportunity may not come again. While this may feel like more of a forced marriage, approach it with a prenuptial. In fact, all partnerships should be entered into with a buy/sell in place. It's easier to decide how to get a divorce before you are married.
Let's switch to some of the bad reasons I have seen people add a partner. One of the worst is because they are fearful to go it alone. They want to hold someones hand while jumping off the diving board. The fact of the matter is you are either prepared and ready, or you are not. If the partner has more experience, as stated earlier, that makes sense. However, often people partner just for the company. Think about it, we all like company. Most people want to do something with somebody else such as shopping, dining out and partnering. This can be a very bad reason.
Another time partnerships take place is when somebody is already in that business, and this is expansion for them and a start-up for the other. This seems like a great concept. However, seldom does the experienced partner share in the burden and is usually less of a resource than you may think. After all, they have a business that they are running, and it's their baby, not half of a business interest. You could end up doing all the work and sharing half the profits. This is a smart move for the expanding business owner. They get a hands on partner.
Often people do it to minimize the risk. This can be a terrible reason. In this case, you should be questioning if being an entrepreneur is for you. You are never ready to open a business, no different than being ready to have a child. You are never ready to buy a bigger house, get married or start a business. You simply seize the moment. That may seem crazy, but we would have become extinct if we had waited until the appropriate time to do anything.
As for partnerships, should you decide to go forward, this should be somebody you know very well. If it's not, get to know them. Business philosophy, goals, aspirations, roles and responsibilities are all things that need to be discussed. You should enter with a good understanding and have as few surprises as possible.
How do you avoid a divorce? It's just like marriage, it can be because they rushed in. However, most fail because of a lack of communication. Great communication is critical. You should schedule regular times to meet. This is time to share with each other, discuss key result areas, staffing or people challenges, look at your goals (both short and long term), your roles and making sure you are not crossing over. This is also a great time to address problems or challenges you have with others and address before they build. Just like in a marriage, fights can be over a stupid reason, but it was something below the surface or something building that caused the fight.
Treat a partnership like a marriage. It takes both, or all, of you working at it. A marriage has love to get you through it, a partnership does not.