How to Choose a Business Partner Who Won’t [Bleep] You

By Nina Kaufman, Esq.

In my decades of practicing law and working with entrepreneurs, I can say there is at least one bright spot in the world of business partnerships.

Let me say, too, that I believe the coming years will herald an increase in the number of business owners who collaborate and work together to find ways to “partner” with other companies to expand their reach and generate income.

Now, I haven’t done a formal survey or hired a company to run focus groups, but based on what I’ve seen from working with business owners over the years … here’s my grand epiphany:

Nine times out of 10 (maybe even more) people do not go into business together with the intent of swindling each other.

So why is that good news?

Because many entrepreneurs shy away from opportunities to expand their business and their customer base for fear of getting “screwed.” In my experience, business partnerships generally don’t break up because someone had his or her hand in the till. They break up because, over time, the personal and business goals of the owners were too divergent to be reconciled under one roof. Or, like marrying after the third date, the owners didn’t take the time to really get to know each other (and themselves) sufficiently before “tying the knot.”

That’s why I wrote The Entrepreneur’s Prenup: How to Choose a Business Partner Who Won’t [Bleep] You. In plain English, it outlines the significant issues you’ll want to discuss with your “significant other” (for the business, anyway) and helps you find a framework for discussion. It also covers why partnership agreements are so important. Because business partnerships have the potential to end poorly, it’s vital you think through the “what ifs” of how you will go your separate ways should you ever need to. An orderly transition can mean the difference between a buyout that allows you to relax in Tahiti and a buyout that costs you more in time, money and aggravation than your ownership interest was worth.

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