Should You Have a Business Partner?

Scott D. Clary
Scott D. Clary
8 min readJun 22, 2024


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Partnerships: The Double-Edged Sword of Entrepreneurship

Let’s talk about something that’s both exhilarating and terrifying: partnerships.

They’re the stuff of startup legend, the dynamic duos that built empires from garages and dorm rooms.

But for every Jobs and Wozniak, there are countless stories of partnerships gone wrong, relationships imploding like dying stars.

Partnerships are a paradox — a high-risk, high-reward game that can catapult your business to greatness or leave it in ruins.

They’re not for the faint of heart.

They demand a level of self-awareness, emotional maturity, and ruthless honesty that most of us would rather avoid.

But for those willing to face the fire, the rewards can be extraordinary.

The Dark Side of Partnership

The allure of a partnership is undeniable.

It’s the promise of shared burdens, complementary skills, and a built-in support system.

But let’s not sugarcoat it — there’s a dark side to this moon.

  • The Toxic Twin: Partnerships are intense. They’re like pressure cookers for personalities, amplifying both strengths and flaws. That “dream team” can quickly turn into a nightmare if egos clash, values misalign, or one partner simply isn’t pulling their weight.
  • The Illusion of Shared Risk: In theory, risk is halved when it’s shared. In reality, it can be doubled. Disagreements over strategy, execution, or even basic values can lead to paralysis, bad decisions, and ultimately, a higher chance of failure.
  • The Golden Handcuffs: A poorly structured partnership agreement can be a death sentence. It can be harder to escape a bad partnership than a bad marriage, leaving you trapped in a business relationship that’s sucking the life out of you.

The point isn’t to scare you away from partnerships altogether. It’s to make you aware of the risks so you can make informed decisions.

If you’re considering a partnership, do your due diligence.

Get to know your potential partner on a deep level.

Talk about values, goals, conflict resolution, and even exit strategies.

And for God’s sake, get a good lawyer to draft a bulletproof agreement.

The Thought-Provoking Side: Reimagining Partnerships

If the traditional partnership model seems too risky, don’t despair.

There are alternative approaches that might be a better fit for your entrepreneurial journey:

  • The Anti-Founder: Instead of seeking a clone of yourself, consider partnering with someone who challenges your assumptions, pushes you out of your comfort zone, and brings a different perspective to the table. The friction can be uncomfortable, but it can also lead to more innovative and balanced outcomes.
  • The Temporary Partnership: Not all partnerships need to be lifelong commitments. A time-bound partnership focused on a specific goal can be a powerful way to leverage each other’s strengths without the long-term risks.
  • The Solopreneur with a Board: Build a “personal board of directors” comprised of mentors, advisors, and experts. This gives you access to diverse perspectives and support without the complexities of a formal partnership.

The Art of Partner Selection: A Framework for Success

Choosing a business partner is like choosing a spouse — you’re entering a relationship that will profoundly impact your life, for better or worse.

So, how do you find “the one”?

Here’s a framework to guide your search:

  1. Values Alignment: This is non-negotiable. If your core values don’t align, it doesn’t matter how skilled or charismatic your potential partner is — the relationship is doomed. Discuss your beliefs about work ethic, integrity, risk tolerance, and the role of business in society.
  2. Complementary Skills AND Shared Vision: While complementary skills are important, they’re not enough. You also need a shared vision for the future of the business. Where do you want to take this company? What impact do you want to make? If your visions don’t align, you’ll end up pulling in different directions.
  3. Emotional Maturity: Partnerships are emotional rollercoasters. There will be highs and lows, triumphs and setbacks. You need a partner who can handle the pressure, resolve conflicts constructively, and maintain a positive attitude even when things get tough.
  4. Trust and Transparency: Can you be completely honest with this person? Do you trust their judgment? Are you willing to share financial information, vulnerabilities, and even failures? Without trust and transparency, the partnership will crumble.
  5. Exit Strategy: It might seem morbid to discuss the end of a relationship before it even begins, but it’s crucial. What happens if one partner wants to leave? What if the partnership simply isn’t working out? Having a clear exit strategy in place can save you from a world of pain down the road.

Remember: Choosing a business partner is not a decision to be taken lightly. It’s a commitment that requires careful consideration, honest conversations, and a willingness to walk away if it’s not the right fit.

Key Questions for Contemplation

Before diving headfirst into a partnership, it’s crucial to engage in deep introspection and answer some tough questions:

  1. Do you truly need a partner? Be brutally honest with yourself. What specific problems are you trying to solve by bringing on a partner? Are there alternative solutions that don’t involve sharing ownership and control?
  2. What is your risk tolerance? Partnerships are inherently risky endeavors. Are you comfortable with the potential for conflict, disagreements, and even financial loss? Can you stomach the idea of being legally bound to another person, even if the relationship sours?
  3. What is your vision for the future? How might a partnership affect your long-term goals for the business? Will it accelerate your growth, open new doors, or potentially hinder your ability to pivot and adapt?
  4. Are you willing to give up control? Partnerships require compromise and shared decision-making. Are you prepared to relinquish some autonomy and collaborate with someone who may have a different vision or approach?
  5. Have you thoroughly vetted potential partners? Due diligence is paramount when choosing a partner. Have you conducted background checks, assessed their financial history, and spoken to their references? Have you discussed your values, goals, and expectations in depth?
  6. Do you have a clear partnership agreement? A well-crafted partnership agreement is like a prenup for your business. It should outline each partner’s roles and responsibilities, how profits and losses will be shared, how disputes will be resolved, and what happens if one partner wants to exit.
  7. Are you prepared for the emotional toll? Partnerships can be intense and emotionally draining. Are you ready to navigate the ups and downs, the disagreements and disappointments, and the potential for heartbreak if things don’t work out?

By carefully considering these questions and engaging in open and honest communication with potential partners, you can increase your chances of forging a successful and fulfilling partnership.

The Art of the Partnership Agreement: A Blueprint for Success

If, after careful consideration, you decide to embark on the partnership path, it’s imperative to create a comprehensive and meticulously crafted partnership agreement.

This document serves as the bedrock of your collaboration, outlining the rules of engagement, delineating roles and responsibilities, and providing a roadmap for navigating potential conflicts.

Think of your partnership agreement as a prenuptial agreement for your business.

It’s not about anticipating the worst-case scenario; it’s about proactively addressing potential challenges and ensuring that both partners are on the same page.

Here are some key elements to include in your partnership agreement:

  1. Ownership and Equity: Clearly define each partner’s ownership stake in the business. This includes the initial equity split, how ownership may change over time, and what happens if one partner wants to sell their shares.
  2. Roles and Responsibilities: Outline each partner’s specific roles and responsibilities within the business. This can include areas like finance, marketing, operations, and product development. Clearly defining roles can help prevent misunderstandings and conflicts down the road.
  3. Decision-Making: Establish a decision-making framework. Will decisions be made by consensus, majority vote, or will one partner have final say? Consider creating a list of major decisions that require unanimous consent, such as selling the business or taking on significant debt.
  4. Profit and Loss Distribution: Determine how profits and losses will be shared among partners. This can be based on ownership percentages, individual contributions, or a combination of factors. Be sure to address how losses will be covered if the business incurs debt.
  5. Dispute Resolution: Outline a process for resolving disputes between partners. This can include mediation, arbitration, or other forms of alternative dispute resolution. Having a clear process in place can help prevent minor disagreements from escalating into major conflicts.
  6. Exit Strategy: Address what happens if one partner wants to leave the business, becomes disabled, or passes away. This can include buy-out provisions, transfer restrictions, and other mechanisms for ensuring a smooth transition.
  7. Non-Compete and Confidentiality: Include provisions to protect the business’s intellectual property and prevent partners from competing with the company after they leave.
  8. Amendment Process: Outline how the partnership agreement can be amended in the future. This can help ensure that the agreement remains relevant and adaptable as the business evolves.

Remember, your partnership agreement is a living document.

It should be reviewed and updated regularly to reflect the changing needs of the business and the evolving dynamics of the partnership.

The Power of Partnership: When Two (or More) Heads Are Better Than One

While the potential pitfalls of partnership are undeniable, it’s important to acknowledge the power and potential of successful collaborations.

When two or more individuals with complementary skills, shared values, and aligned goals come together, the results can be extraordinary.

Partnerships can provide:

  • Increased Capital: Pooling resources can give you a larger war chest for investing in growth, hiring top talent, and weathering economic downturns.
  • Expanded Skill Set: Combining complementary skills can create a well-rounded team capable of tackling a wider range of challenges and seizing new opportunities.
  • Shared Workload: Dividing responsibilities can alleviate the burden on each partner, allowing for better work-life balance and reducing the risk of burnout.
  • Emotional Support: Having a partner to share the ups and downs of entrepreneurship can provide invaluable emotional support and encouragement.
  • Enhanced Creativity: Collaborating with someone who thinks differently can spark new ideas, challenge assumptions, and lead to innovative solutions.
  • Greater Resilience: Partners can lean on each other during tough times, offering support, guidance, and a fresh perspective when facing adversity.

Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to partner is a deeply personal one.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer.

By carefully weighing the pros and cons, asking tough questions, and crafting a comprehensive partnership agreement, you can increase your chances of forging a successful and fulfilling collaboration that propels your business to new heights.




Scott D. Clary
Scott D. Clary

👋 | Host @ Success Story Podcast 🎙️ | I write a newsletter to 321,000 people 👉