HandshakeAs cofounder of three companies, I’ve been asked by many young entrepreneurs how I select the people I go into business with. The following criteria are common traits shared by all of my current business partners, and I believe these traits form the basis of any successful business partnership:

1. A Positive Attitude

In life, there are some people who always leave you feeling enthused, motivated, and/or generally positive.

There are others, too: People who leave you feeling drained, thanks to their relentless complaining or seemingly constant bad luck.

It may seem like a no-brainer to say this, but your business partner should be the first type of person. Successful entrepreneurs universally exude positivity, and they want to surround themselves with like-minded people. You should do the same.

2. Financial Stability and/or ‘Sweat Equity’

Most people tend to be nice in the beginning of any new relationship, because they don’t want to rock the boat or seem difficult.

As an entrepreneur, you can’t afford this “honeymoon” period. You need to clear define your and your partner’s roles and and responsibilities from the start. Meet any disagreements head-on to decide whether you want to pursue the endeavor.

Partners bring different abilities to the table. Some finance-focused people don’t want to assist with daily operations but are more than willing to fund the endeavor in return for a hopefully large return on their investment; others do not invest monetary funds, choosing instead to contribute “sweat equity” by agreeing to shoulder day-to-day management responsibilities in exchange for a certain percentage of the company. My current partners and I utilize a combination of both approaches.

The arrangement can be tweaked in whatever way works best for you, your partners, and your line of business. However, there must be an understanding that each partner will contribute differently to the ultimate goal of creating a successful company.

3. A Solid Work Ethic

BranchMy current partners are what I call “hustlers.” They are witty, a little wily, and can make magic happen when their backs are against the wall. I appreciate and emulate the ingenuity and tirelessness they bring to our respective businesses.

Take note of a prospective partner’s accomplishments to date and also how they handle current situations. Helpful questions may include:

- How many endeavors has this person started and how many have been abandoned?

- How do they handle stress?

- Do you feel in your gut that this person has what it takes to put in the long, unreasonable hours that will be required to start your company and make it successful?

Candidly ask yourself these questions, discuss the results with mentors, and listen to your intuition. Anyone can say they have a strong work ethic, but as the old adage states: actions speak louder than words.

4. Respect for You and for Themselves

Whether starting your venture with a best friend, a relative, or a colleague, each of you must respect what the other can contribute to the company. This is especially important if you are working side-by-side with someone with whom you had an unequal relationship dynamic in the past (big brother/little sister, mother/daughter, father/son, etc.). You can’t let those dynamics trickle into the decision-making process of the business. “Little sister” has to be given as much of a voice as “big brother” if the two are to be truly equal partners in the company.

I went into business with a best friend when we started Sin City Cupcakes. Some people considered this to be company suicide, but three and a half years later, we still have a mutual respect for one another and share the same goal for our company as we did on day one: to grow, expand, and have fun making money.

MeetingBy listening to my mentors, believing my intuition, and having a little good luck, I have been able to work with knowledgeable and dependable business partners. Having another person join you on an entrepreneurial escapade makes the journey more fulfilling. It has given me the best type of support one could hope for – honest, real feedback from people I trust.


This article originally appeared on BusinessCollective.

Lisa Song Sutton, J.D., is a real estate investor and serial entrepreneur, holding ownership interests in several companies in the real estate, retail, and food and beverage sectors, including the popular alcohol-infused bakeshop Sin City Cupcakes. In addition to her professional careers, Ms. Sutton is a contributing writer for various business publications and is actively involved in her community as a former Miss Nevada United States 2014. Learn more about Lisa and her companies at www.lisasongsutton.com.

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