7 March 2024

13 Questions You Must Ask a Potential Business Partner

By Ronald Smith

If you don’t like or at least respect the person who could potentially be your business partner, things are bound to go downhill. Just like you screen potential employees, it’s important to ensure that you and your future partner have shared values and perspectives when it truly counts.

But how can you figure out if you’re a perfect match from the start? What questions should you ask when interviewing a potential business partner to ensure you’re making the right decision?

We reached out to members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an exclusive organization of the country’s most promising young entrepreneurs, with the following question:

What is the one vital question you must ask when interviewing a potential business partner and why?

Here’s what members of the YEC community had to say:

1. What is Your Ultimate Goal?

Before diving into any venture, it is crucial to understand the reason behind it. Sure, knowing where you want to go is important, but if you don’t have a clear motive for both parties involved, you’re in trouble. Always begin with the ‘why’ and let everything else fall into place. ~ Jonathan Mead, Playbook

2. How Much Time are You Willing to Invest?

Partners often underestimate the amount of effort required to make a business thrive. The truth is, if you’re starting a business, you should be prepared to dedicate 40 to 60 hours per week. Unless one partner is exceptionally skilled and extraordinarily efficient, not committing to this workload will inevitably lead to countless issues. ~ Dave Nevogt, Hubstaff.com

3. Do You Have an Exit Strategy?

When you’re starting a business with co-founders, it’s important to understand what drives them and what they hope to achieve in the long run. Some may be focused on financial success, while others may be more interested in the experience of running a business and building teams. By discussing these motivations early on, we can better understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses and build a strong business relationship.

Now let’s consider which skills we all share and which ones are unique to each of us.

I believe that it’s crucial to know where you and your business partner excel and where you have different strengths. In my experience, the most successful business partnerships are formed by individuals with complementary skill sets. However, it’s also important to identify areas of overlap. By having a deep understanding of each person’s strengths and weaknesses, it becomes easier to divide tasks and collaborate effectively.

5. What gets you motivated?

Understanding what motivates someone is essential. Without this knowledge, there is a risk of misalignment and frustration.

6. How would you handle a crisis involving the media?

I gotta be honest, this is something a lot of entrepreneurs forget about. They’re so busy planning for success that they don’t consider what happens if things go south. At my business, we’re prepared to handle any potential issues, but it’s crucial for me to know that we’ll respond quickly and effectively if something does go wrong. – Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

7. What if Something Goes Wrong?

Partnerships can be amazing when everything goes according to plan. But what about when things don’t go as planned? How will your partners react? What do they care about the most? Do you have the necessary resources if things go downhill? Whether it’s an investor, reseller, or development partner, it’s important to understand how they’ll handle tough situations and how you can detect problems early on and address them promptly. – Trevor Sumner, LocalVox

8. Have You Tried It Yourself?

9. Can you see it from my perspective?

If we decide to start a business together, we need to make sure we’re both aiming for the same goals. Otherwise, we’ll end up contradicting each other and no one will come out on top. Before partnering up, ask each other about our visions and goals for the short and long term. – Nick Friedman, College Hunks Hauling Junk and College Hunks Moving

10. How do you define success and failure?

You know, when it comes to working with business partners, we usually agree on what needs to be done and where the product should go. But we often forget to have a real conversation about what success and failure really mean. So, why not ask a potential partner to be more specific? Get them to tell you what success would actually look like – you know, like hitting certain revenue goals or reaching a specific value for the company. And while you’re at it, ask them what failure would look like too. It’s all about making sure we both have a crystal-clear understanding of what we’re aiming for. – Susan Strayer LaMotte, exaqueo

11. If you didn’t have to work, what would you do?

Now, here’s a simple little question that can give you a whole lot of insight into a person – their passions, interests, what drives them, and what gets them motivated. Our differences are what make the world go round, you know? And when it comes to a successful partnership, it’s really important that our passions, priorities, and the things that excite us are all aligned. That’s what makes it work. – Rebecca Zorowitz, Ooh La La Candy

Finding a business partner who is as committed as you are is crucial. You want to know if they will prioritize the business and invest their time and effort into it. This will show you how serious they are and how much they are willing to dedicate.

13. Dealing with Tough Times

It’s important to know how your potential business partner handles difficult situations. Have they dealt with adversity before? You want to partner with someone who is rational, reasonable, and respectful.