When recruiting new employees we tend to work off a list of questions that we ask the candidates. We are usually most interested in past experience, skills, work tenure, past employers and a little bit of the candidates view of their strengths and weaknesses. From this we seem to gather enough information to make a decision on whether we want to welcome them into our business or not. Sometimes it works, and as all business owners know, sometimes it doesn’t.
When choosing a business partner, the process is different. Very rarely do we actually interview each other. Often, we are friends or colleagues first and our relationship has naturally reached a point where we start talking about taking the leap into business. Often the risks are much higher choosing a business partner than an employee. After all, like a marriage, you are starting a joint bank account and make most decisions together as well as relying on both having a deep level of respect and trust in each other. It is quite interesting that we don’t seem to go through as thorough ‘recruitment’ process when both deciding to go into partnership.
I believe that one of the best activities that the Scrappi Co-Founders undertook on day one was a full day ‘strategy’ session which was less about the business strategy but more about our partnership strategy. We spent time working through our core values, our ambitions, our life goals and what we personally wanted to achieve through this venture and in life. We didn’t go away and read the shareholders agreement separately and email it back signed. But rather, we had a lawyer sit with us together and go through each line in detail. We discussed every possible ‘bad’ situation that could happen and how we would deal with it.
Whilst we were very confident about the success of our partnership (we wouldn’t have been doing it otherwise) we went in knowing that life can change course and things can go wrong so let’s talk about it now and hope it never happens. This may sound pretty standard but it’s actually not. Like most relationships in the honeymoon phase, everyone is excited and full of positivity. No one thinks anything is going to sour and so often planning for the worst is the last thing on your mind and would just put a dampener on everyone’s excitement. By having this conversation up front it has set the tone for us to always speak openly and frankly about any concerns we are having, which has meant they have been dealt with quickly and easily.
In addition to this though there is one other question that I think you should always ask a future business partner. A non-negotiable if you like. I must know that any person I am going into business with has had adversity. Every business venture is going to come with big challenges. The quicker you grow and the more successful you become (and once serious money is involved), the bigger those challenges can be. How you deal with these challenges as a team and as individuals will be critical to the overall success. If you or your business partners don’t have the grit, guts and gumption to dig in and get through the tough times together you won’t get far.
So before you start clinking glasses and getting excited about taking over the world together, I highly recommend, a down to earth and raw discussion about the sh#%t you have all been through, what you learnt and how you would handle those situations in the future. Knowing you can rely on each other during the tough times is much more comforting than knowing someone has been successful in a past life.