Would you marry someone who didn’t share your values and vision for the future? Not if you know what’s good for you! Business partners are no different- follow these five steps to get to know your potential partner before you take the plunge.

The comedian Will Ferrell once said, “Before you marry a person, you should first make them use a computer with slow Internet to see who they really are.”

Judging by some of his films, Will might not be a saint or prophet, but he does have this one right! When it comes to business partners, choosing poorly can lead to business failure and relational dysfunction- no to mention bank-busting attorney bills. But choosing wisely can create sustained business success.

Here are five ways to determine if you’ve found the right partner:

1. Shared Values.

The last thing you want is to hitch your wagon to a partner who doesn’t share your business and personal values. The demands of running a business are guaranteed to expose the cracks in your disconnected worldviews. It won’t be pretty

You and your partner must be fully aligned in how you view your business and life.

Sort this out up front, so you know you have a shot at long-term success. Remember, a business partnership is one of the most definitive ways you can be “yoked together” with another. If you’re planning a partnership, you should be in business with fellow believers of Jesus:

“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” – 2nd Corinthians 6.14

2. Shared Vision.

You’re about to engage in a significant commitment. Be sure you see the future the same way.

If your goal is a lifestyle business, but your partner is trying to build maximum financial value, then you’ve got problems. It won’t be long before he’ll think you’re lazy, and you’ll think she’s money-hungry.

There are an endless number of potential divisions in your partnership vision. This kind of partnership disconnect can crush your business.

But alignment on your business vision will lead to success:

“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” – Matthew 18.19-20

3. Date First.

You wouldn’t marry someone you just met- so don’t partner with someone you know little about.

Find ways to test the relationship, and your partner’s abilities and commitment. That way you won’t waste your time, money, energy and reputation on an “unknown”.

A test-drive might save you from a huge headache later. There are countless ways to work together on a one-time basis before making a full commitment.

Don’t get caught up in the energizing lure of a great new business idea. Slow down and fully consider a potential partner. Business ideas come and go- you want a tested partner for the long haul.

Try working on a few projects together so that you can discern your potential partner’s business integrity:

“Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.” – Proverbs 10.9

4. Spend Time With Family.

A great way to learn about a person is to observe them with their family. Set a date night with spouses, or a cookout with each other’s families. You’ll see how your potential partner interacts with those closest to them.

If your partner treats his spouse and family well, and has their respect, he’ll probably earn yours and your customers as well. If not, then you’re surely in for a rocky road.

Further, you’ll get valuable insights from your own spouse and family about your potential partner. Personally, my wife is a wise judge of character- she often gives me important insight into business relationships. Your spouse and family will, too:

“She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.” – Proverbs 31.26

5. Count Your Resources.

You need to know your partner has the financial resources to help your business grow and weather tough times. If you need unexpected capital, will your partner be able to help?

Ask frank questions about the resources you each have available to support your business. This way you can be sure you won’t suffer from a cash flow crunch when it matters most.

You need to know this up front, so in the emotions of the moment your expectations of each
other are clear:

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’” – Luke 14. 28-30

A partnership is a huge commitment, not easily undone. These five tips are a great start in determining if you’ve got a good partner.

Ask the right questions up front. Your thoughtful and thorough approach will be a great investment for your business future!