The Top 5 Must-Ask Questions for a Prospective Business Partner

When you consider a partnership, you and your potential business partners can be full of enthusiasm and ideas. Everyone could be looking to emphasize their best qualities and paint a picture of the brightest future. Human resources professionals often rely on questions about past experiences to draw out information-rich responses from candidates. Here are some of the top questions you might ask a potential partner and tweaks to get more revealing responses.

1. What Do You Bring to the Table?

A question about the strengths of likely business partners could lead to an enjoyable, but vague, conversation about friends and wealthy relatives. A smarter strategy might be to ask for an example of a time your potential partner saved a valuable sale or brought an idea from theory to workable product.

2. How Do You Handle Tough Times?

Most likely, in the beginning of a venture, everyone dreads thinking about difficulties or failures. Subtly evasive answers could be easy when no one wants to imagine the risks and responsibilities of business ownership. Consider a question about tactics during a period of unemployment.

3. How much money will you draw from the business and when?

Any answer to this question invites speculation. Similar to asking how many hours per week a potential partner might work, it can be easy to sway the answers in favor of agreement, when hard numbers may tell a different story. In the real world, asking a difficult question about financial obligations, such as alimony or school tuition, could reveal the impracticality of business plans.

4. How do you see us complementing each other?

This question gives a chance for a pleasant and aimless chat. Instead of focusing on the obvious, such as one person likes people and the other likes numbers, consider asking your colleague for specific examples of roles on past teams. A following question might be requesting an example of a situation when acting outside a comfort zone brought success.

5. Can we put this in writing?

Any negative answer could be alarming, so you might never hear anything but agreement. A more effective inquiry might be to ask about past experiences working with contracts and attorneys. Even a story about a parent’s estate could yield interesting information about negotiation in actual situations.

It can be exciting to talk business plans with prospective business partners, but careful conversation can steer you away from inappropriate matches. Likewise, a thoughtful and candid conversation with a potential partner could lead like-minded achievers toward a prosperous partnership.

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