Picking a romantic partner is never easy. So imagine what it must be like to select a small business partner, let alone a partner to run a website. Much like a marriage, no one wants to go into this union with a toxic partner. A toxic business partner can be a sibling, an old friend from college, someone you just met from a trade show or even a romantic partner. It can truly be anyone.
A toxic partner can bring about financial distress, company betrayal, and mental anguish for the long haul. Can one truly divorce from a business partner?
A toxic business partner’s true colors don’t always come out upon the first meet and greet. It takes awhile to get to know someone after all. However, there are questions you can ask and various clues to help you ward off negative souls from crushing your company or website to the ground.
Here are 6 career and life tips to help you select the right partner.
Past Actions Repeat Themselves
The old saying goes the past always repeats itself. But there is more to this adage. When someone walks into your life and quickly declares that going into business with you is the best step, use critical thinking skills. Not everyone is conscientious enough to learn from their past actions. Those actions will repeat itself into your company/ website if you are not careful enough. Remember to ask the following before signing half your company away:
1.) How did they handle past and present business deals that went awry?
2.) How do they speak about past and business partners?
3.) Did they try to act like a victim or try to work things out?
4.) If the story sounds one-sided, can you infer the rest of the story?
5.) Does this potential business partner not feel remorse for past actions?
Black and White Thinking (Splitting)
Splitting is a psychological term that refers to a person who characterizes other people, themselves, situations, beliefs, and objects as only good or bad. The world is a complex place, and those with black and white thinking know this yet use tactic as a defense mechanism. Extreme emotional reactions, warped decision making, and delusional thinking tends to occur with those who suffer from splitting. Would you want to do business with someone who cannot see gray? Splitting is a toxic quality. With this in mind, ask yourself the following about your potential business partner:
- Can this person compromise?
- Can they see gray in a problem?
- How does this person handle prioritization?
- Will this partner bully you and make it more their way?
- Will they respect your feedback?
Strong, honest, and consistent communication is key for any partnership. Whenever there is conflict, misunderstanding or confusion will this potential partner talk to you first or spread rumors about you with mutual clients and partners? Even if this potential partner communicates with you, does this person listen and affirm your thoughts back without getting defensive? Does this potential partner try to spin what is said into a self-loathing narrative? Those are toxic traits by the way. These are questions you have to ask yourself and even your potential business partner.
Be able to assess the following:
1.) Listening skills. Will both sides hear each other out without stealing turns?
2.) Body language, written and oral skills. Do words match actions? Anyone can talk fluff.
3.) Do both of you have compatible communication skills?
4.) Is there open communication or do you feel like you are walking on eggshells around this person? Are you afraid of this person’s reactions or what they could do to you if you don’t do what they say?
5.) Will this person keep company secrets? If this partner is spilling past secrets from past bosses and relationships that soured, this could also mean they could spill your secrets to the world too.
Integrity and Honesty
A person with integrity is someone with strong ethical principals that are followed at all times. Not only that, but trust and honesty are consistent. A valuable business partner has moral code that is followed, not compromised, with actions that match words. A business partner with integrity draws others because of their dependability and trustworthiness. A toxic business and web partner tends to stray from moral conduct and make excuses, stories, and fibs to get what they want. Imagine partnering up with a partner who brokers a business deal behind your back that tamper’s with your company’s credibility? To prevent this, consider the following questions:
- Is this person gaslighting you?
- Does this person tell you the entire truth? Or omit stuff to change the narrative back to what this person wants.
- Do they speak positively about you behind your back?
- Will this partner own up to responsibilities or is this person full of excuses?
- Is this person genuine? Does this person act fake around certain people for ulterior motives?
- Does this partner’s actions match their words, principles, and views?
Vibes and First, Second, and Third Impressions
Never dismiss your gut instinct and the little quirks you pick up when you interact with a potential partner. Even a partner you have known for a good majority of your life. The vibes, and multiple impressions you get from someone is often a clue on what kind of personality you are bringing into your personal revenue or digital stream. Your brand is most important so you have to truly make sure you are not bringing in a toxic bully into the fold. Ask yourself this, does this partner:
- Does this person make subtle underhanded put downs?
- Does this partner try to get you involved in drama that you have no place being involved in?
- Does this partner accept you for what you bring to the table? Or do they put you down and try to change you?
Does this person say something offensive and then plays it off as a joke?
- Do you feel like you are lowering your moral standard, becoming a worse professional being associated with this person? A healthy relationship with a business partner means you share stated values
- Does this partner center themselves, make themselves the victim?
- Is this someone who is unable to apologize?
- They point out your flaws constantly but get overly reactive when you point out theirs.
- Does this partner compete with you in an unhealthy way?
A Business Partner’s Values
Similar to assessing a potential partner’s integrity. Essentially, one’s core are critical if you want a company or website with long-lasting, successful, results. Common business values such as integrity, honesty, trust, accountability, humility, continuous learning, teamwork, ownership, constant improvement and simplicity. Naturally, a toxic web or business partner will not have these traits but will be dishonest, stubborn, ego-driven, selfish, not a team player, and not take any accountability for actions. These final questions are the clincher when selecting a partner and will prevent you from making fatal mistakes:
1.) Will there be agreed transparency with all finances?
2.) Will this person agree to a written contract?
3.) Are they pushing you for an oral contract only? (big mistake, it’s easy to go back on one’s word)
4.) How does this person react to sharing/ not sharing passwords dealing with social media, websites, and client-based cases?
5.) Will both partners have an equal relationship with all processes?
6.) Is one partner hogging one role and not sharing information equally?
7.) How is negotiation with salary, payment?
8.) Is there room for fair negotiation? Or do you sense an ulterior motive?
9.) Do you and your business partner’s skillsets complement each other? Or are they the same? If they are the same, you may need to consider a new partner since a partner with contrasting skills can only further improve your company/website.
As you determine where you want to go with your business partner selection, remember to pay attention to your gut instinct, ask the right questions, and take time to get to know your partner before getting a contract signed.
Remember, picking the wrong partner can make or break your small business or website.
Sherryn D. Gaworecki, MA in Leadership and Management, has been in the content marketing world for over 10 years by creating niche posts for various sites. She has also worked in non-profit for over 5 years. For quirky tales on life and on quarantine check out Sherryn’s Gab Session. You can also connect with Sherryn on Twitter and Instagram.