29 February 2024

12 Clear Indicators Your Business Partner or Vendor Can’t be Trusted

By Ronald Smith

When you collaborate with an external company, there’s only a limited amount of control you have. However, there are certain behaviors that can serve as red flags, indicating it might be time to reconsider.

That’s why I reached out to the experts in the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) and asked them the following question:

What’s one unmistakable sign that a partnership or deal with a business partner or vendor won’t work out?

Let me share with you the insights from the YEC community:

1. Communication Delays That Stretch On

When a partner or vendor takes a long time to respond to our calls or emails, it’s a sign things won’t work out. I want to work with companies who are excited to collaborate. If they’re unresponsive, it shows they’re either too busy or not organized, and I’ll constantly be frustrated by them. ~ Diana Goodwin, AquaMobile Swim School

2. Trust Your Gut

Sometimes, we overlook our own instincts, thinking they’re insignificant. But if you think about past deals that didn’t work out, your gut probably had a feeling it was headed that way. It may not be everyone’s way of making decisions, but listening to your instincts can be a valuable tool. ~ Darrah Brustein, Network Under 40 / Finance Whiz Kids

Inconsistent information is a warning sign.

When someone changes their story or terms after our initial conversation, it’s a clear sign that I should walk away and not waste any more time on them. I don’t believe in giving second chances. If someone isn’t completely honest and upfront from the start, I won’t waste my time on them. There are plenty of other potential partners and vendors out there.

They won’t take responsibility.

When things aren’t going well, they tend to point fingers at everyone else and refuse to take responsibility for their own actions. It’s really hard to change people, and it’s definitely a warning sign if they can’t admit when they’re wrong. You can usually spot this behavior early in a relationship, and it’s important to address it right away. Instead of trying to change their behavior, you might want to consider finding someone else to work with.

5. They Argue About Little Things

You can tell if a partnership is going to fail by how the other person behaves and how much they trust you. If they don’t trust you, and they constantly demand detailed explanations, pick at the tiniest parts of contracts, or make many small changes to an otherwise simple agreement, then your partnership is definitely in trouble. ~ Joshua Dorkin, BiggerPockets

6. Money is a Taboo Topic

When forming successful partnerships and vendor relationships, it’s crucial to have a clear and actionable plan to make a positive impact on the bottom line. Often, these discussions revolve around product ideas or general concepts. However, when it comes to the actual financial aspect, things can fall apart. It’s important to have the money talk early on to weed out any unfavorable opportunities. – Ivan Matkovic, Spendgo

7. Deceptive Tactics

Imagine having a great conversation where things seem to be going well. You then ask the other person to write down everything that was agreed upon and send it to you for further discussion. But when you receive their written summary, it’s nothing like what was discussed! This can mean one of two things: either they didn’t listen properly or they’re not trustworthy. Neither option is good.

8. Lack of Responsiveness

When a vendor or partner goes silent for several days, especially in the early stages, it’s a major warning sign. It shows that they don’t prioritize or value the relationship. – George Morris, Imulus

9. They Don’t Ask Questions or Raise Concerns

Great business leaders thoroughly examine a deal and scrutinize it for potential problems that could harm their business. Sometimes they take time to think it over and come back with questions later, but any trustworthy partner should conduct this level of due diligence. The only type of deal that doesn’t raise any questions or concerns is the kind that won’t happen. – Manpreet Singh, TalkLocal

10. They Disagree with Non-Disclosure Terms

When I’m working out a deal with a company or individual, we often include mutual non-disclosure/non-circumvention provisions. This means that both parties agree to keep certain information confidential and not go around each other. And guess what? These provisions apply to my company too. So if a potential partner tries to negotiate the length of time for non-disclosure and non-circumvention to be less than 24 months, it raises a red flag for me. It makes me question their true intentions. ~ Nicholas Nadjarian, Industrial Motor Power Corp.

11. Conflicting Values

Here’s a secret that most people don’t know: one of the biggest signs of a successful deal is having alignment in values. When we’re in the initial discussions that determine whether both parties will go ahead with the deal, we talk about the money, the plan, and the strategy. But what really matters is whether our values match. These values determine how we work and whether we can collaborate effectively with your business. ~ David Tomas, Cyberclick

Problem-Focused without a Solution

When I hire vendors, it’s because I need their expertise to handle a situation that I can’t tackle on my own. It becomes concerning when I come across contractors who only focus on pointing out problems without offering any solutions. It’s a red flag for me as a client. It makes me anxious. I prefer working with someone who has the confidence and experience to say I can do this and actually get it done in the most effective way possible. That’s what Michael Portman from Birds Barbershop believes.