For a business partnership to succeed, both parties need to be fully on board. Everyone has to be open, honest and transparent about who they are and what they know so that each side understands who they’re doing business with. That’s why getting to know someone on a personal level is key to having a successful business relationship.
We asked members of Business Journals Leadership Trust what questions they suggest asking someone before you partner with them. Their best responses are below.
1. ‘How do you bring balance to this team?’
Look for a partner who brings something different to the table. If you are creative, get a more detail-oriented business partner. If you have funds to invest in the company, you might want to search for a business partner with accessibility to a market or with good connections. Or if you are shy, you may need a “people person” to balance the equation. – Wesleyne Greer, Transformed Sales
2. ‘What are you working to become the best in the world at?’
As Dr. Raymond Baxter once said, “Do what you do best and partner for the rest.” There’s no point partnering with someone who can already do what you do. Great collaborations are built when people and businesses with different skills and expertise bring those skills together. Find partners who have aligned expertise, not the same expertise. – Carrie Fox, Mission Partners
3. ‘Why do you do what you do?’
This is a great question to kick off a partnership. As Simon Sinek said, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” For a partnership to work, you should know your potential partner’s “why.” Recognizing what drives them allows you to understand their purpose, which will enable you to establish a deeper connection for the partnership to work. – Jack Smith, Fortuna Business Management Consulting
4. ‘What are your values?’
At the core of every successful business partnership is a set of shared values. Ask about them to articulate their values on what matters to you most — for example, on fairness, the way they do business and how they want to treat other people. A successful partnership isn’t based on whether you like somebody; rather, it’s based on shared values about the right way to do things. – Daniel Serfaty, Aptima, Inc.
5. ‘What is your management style?’
One illuminating question I would ask is what their management style is concerning client services. The reason this is important to me is the adage that “the client is always right.” This is not always a true statement, and I would want my partner, as I would, to stand up to the client and take corrective action if needed. – Jerry Ramos, Ramos Consulting, LLC
6. ‘What could our industry be doing better?’
It can be challenging to receive transparent feedback from another person. People are generally good — you need to ask questions in a way that does not put another person on the spot. For example, you can ask, “What could our industry be doing better?” or “Why do you feel some partnerships fail?” Taking the perspective of a third party allows for open dialog. Assume they are providing their answers for a reason. – Jared Knisley, Fizen Technology
7. ‘What was the most challenging business situation you’ve faced?’
I would ask them to tell me how they handled this challenging situation. Understanding how people manage under pressure and how they talk about a problem and solution is extremely telling about what they will be like to work with. – Susan LaPlante-Dube, Precision Marketing Group
8. ‘What will success look like for our business?’
Defining success at the beginning of the partnership sets you up to be on the same page, with clear expectations. If both partners have the same idea of success, they will both be accountable for working toward seeing the partnership thrive. Be direct and discuss what specifically needs to happen on both sides for the partnership to succeed. – Scott Scully, Abstrakt Marketing Group
9. ‘Where will we be in a year if we’ve exceeded your expectations?’
Ask them to suppose that one year from now, all of your and their expectations have been exceeded. What, for them, would that look like? Getting a clear picture of success based on your business partner’s expectations is a great way to get to know them and their work ethic as well as their perspective on success. – Rachel Namoff, Arapaho Asset Management
10. ‘What is your vision for the company?’
Perhaps the most important question to ask is if you share the same vision for the company. It’s an important question because your vision for the business will influence how you manage it. Creating a vision statement together would be a good way to determine if you share similar ideas for the company’s future. – Cody McLain, SupportNinja