The Rules . . for Business Courtship – Part 1

So, you’ve broken up with your former business partner, or you are starting a new business, and looking for someone who is a good fit.   Finding the right person is a lot like the romantic courtship process. Call me old-fashioned, but I believe people should honor some principles on both counts. Here are a few of my “rules” for finding the right [business] partner:

1.     Don’t Sleep Together on the First Date.
We often romanticize someone who seems on first glance to be exactly what we are looking for, whether that is tall, dark, and handsome, or a C.P.A. with ten years of public accounting experience who is ready to contribute to a growing company. Please, don’t get burned and rush in! Unless you have an immediate need, get to know the person slowly. I love contract employee situations. I love working as a contract employee when a company needs a temporary in-house counsel, and I highly recommend the situation to my clients as well, because it gives both parties a chance to feel each other out. How are finances handled? How is conflict dealt with? Do your values and ways of relating to people seem similar?
2.     Be Open to Getting Set Up
One of the best ways to meet eligible candidates, for dating or for business, is to ask the circle of people you trust for recommendations. Let them know you’re looking, give them your criteria (try not to be too picky!), and let their minds whir. Chances are, there are at least a few people they can throw your way.
3.     Meet Each Other’s Families
When things start getting serious, it’s time to cautiously take the next step forward. It can be helpful to chat with someone from the person’s business or work “family” – someone with whom he or she worked closely, to get that person’s take on the things you’ve started to vet out for yourself – work style, interpersonal dynamics, values.   Similarly, introduce the candidate to key members of your team that he or she will be spending a lot of time with, to ensure compatibility.