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Partnership crash course: Criteria

Posted by Ilise Benun on

Two minds can be better than one, and having a business partner can really help a business evolve. However, I see a lot of people rushing into business partnerships.

Today, we’re taking a look at how successful partnerships do exist and do thrive under the right conditions and with forethought. A good example of this is Monique Elwell (who is speaking at CFC in Chicago June 23-24), co-founder of Conversify, a social media agency. Here’s Monique’s personal account and the evolution of how a long-time friendship (with Aliza Sherman Risdahl), turned into a successful business partnership.

Monique desired a partnership because she “wanted a partner to share that emotional burden. And to have someone else around to bounce ideas off. To me," she said, "that was very critical.”

From Monique’s perspective here are some the criteria she uses for evaluating a potential partnership:

Ask Yourself, Why Do You Need A Partner? It’s really important to understand why you want/need partner.

What are your Strengths? The second thing is you really need to understand what your strengths are. What are you capable of doing? What’s your strongpoint? And what are you really bad at? When you understand that, then you will understand what you need in a partner.

What are the needs of the business? What does the business need? What can you deliver and what can’t you deliver? Those items you can’t deliver are ideally what you want to find in a partner.

How to Manage Expectations? I would write down in excruciating detail what the expectations are of both partners. I personally believe when there are overlapping skills between partners then there are areas of conflict. When Aliza and I started, we divided the partnership up. Aliza was head of production. I managed the account team, headed up sales and operations (which includes legal and financial). Since then we restructured and brought in a third partner Stephen Jackson, based in Boston. We have four full time employees and three part-time/contractors whom we pull in on projects, as needed. Very basic assumptions that you think are obvious need to be articulated and put on paper. Then you need to come together at a certain point to make sure you are delivering on these items. Very quickly, you will find out if your partner does not live up to those expectations while perhaps not even knowing it.

Are you thinking of forming a business partnership? What criteria do you use? Please share your point of view.

Come see Monique at Creative Freelancer Conference, June 23-24 in Chicago.

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