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Business Partners can provide a great boost to your business when the proper mixture of internal and external strengths come together. In theory, potential partnerships always seem much better than the eventual reality more times than not.

There are five definite warning signs with aspiring partners you should always look for before signing any paperwork or sharing your expertise, underutilized assets or prospecting for business together. Here are the five in no particular order of importance:

  • Does your potential partner bring substantial strengths that offset your weaknesses?  It makes no sense to partner with anyone who has the same strengths and weaknesses.The whole point of a partnership is to strengthen both organizations, not one at the expense of the other.  Far too many times I have been approached by guys who have similar strengths and even bigger weaknesses. Nobody wins in that scenario.
  • Does your potential partner have access to an audience you would like to reach or vice versa?  Another benefit of partnering is to penetrate previously uncharted waters.It’s much easier to meet people at a party of strangers when you have a friend who already knows a lot of people at the bash to introduce you. Business relationship building is similar … try to partner with someone who isn’t a direct competitor that has access to an audience you seek to meet.
  • Can your potential partner do things well that you dislike? This is different from strengths. Just because someone is good at something doesn’t mean it’s a strength.For example, I’m good at SEO but the actual work is best performed by someone else because details wear me out quickly. I don’t do well mentally with minutiae and repetitive tasks. That doesn’t mean I don’t understand or do them well … it just means somebody else is better suited to perform the daily tasks.Try to find a partner to fill in the gaps in your execution of a strategy as you fill in gaps in theirs. If there is anything that doesn’t distribute the costs fairly for both organizations, get it in writing how the lesser contributor will compensate the other. A barter arrangement may be feasible so no money changes hands, but you should document responsibilities at the outset.
  • Is your potential partner willing to compensate you until things get up to snuff if you perform a lion’s share of the work?This is a huge gotcha that has bitten me in the ass too many times.  A lot of potential “partners” approach with the false belief that they’ll either get SEO, web design or marketing automation implemented at no cost under the guise of shared revenues once their endeavor takes off.  Rarely does that plane ever make it to the runway much less get airborne.Don’t cheat a potential partner with a bullshit plan such as this!! It’s insulting to your potential partner and won’t get your business very far because you’ll start things off on the wrong foot.  Your partner won’t trust you and will resent you for attempting to take advantage of their skills. That’s not a partnership … that’s called being a parasite.
  • Listen to your gut! Rarely will your gut steer you wrong in a business transaction if you’re tuned into things and have your eyes wide open. If something doesn’t feel right or seems too good to be true, exercise more patience. Take your time and perform the proper due diligence.

Remember to keep your eyes open and your body in tune with everything during potential partnership discussions. There are plenty of businesses out there who are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They’ll try to swindle you at every turn unless you nip it in the bud before things get too far along.

A solid partner will bring a combination of resources, strengths, skills, prospective clients and/or complementary offers to the mix. A top flight partner will have no qualms compensating you if you are expected to fill in substantial potholes until you both create a smooth path to success. Just like everything else, use your brain and common sense to weed out crappy partners just like you would potential clients.