Sometimes getting to the next stage in your business seems like an impossible task—especially if you’re still going it alone. Bringing on a business partner means you have someone to share the ups and downs of business ownership, someone to take part of the load off your shoulders, and someone to rejoice with when an unexpected success makes your day.

I know I’m lucky to have my business partners with me on my entrepreneurial journey. I’m also lucky in that I knew them and worked with them for many years before we struck out on our own.

If you’re not as lucky as I am, here are some steps to find your perfect business partner.

Make a list of your needs. In what areas of your business could you use some help? Even if it’s mostly monetary help, get it all down in writing. Then make a list of potential partners with the qualifications to fit those needs.

Don’t rush it. I worked with my future business partners for over 20 years before we partnered up. Obviously, you don’t have that kind of time, but you do need to take time to make sure you know how your potential partners react in different situations. Run some ideas by them and see if they just agree with everything you say, fight you on everything you say or offer valuable input.

Check references. If you’re not familiar with the partner on a business level, contact some of their past business associates.

Be wary of family and friends. Business can ruin personal relationships if you’re not careful. If you’re considering partnering with a family member or close friend, make sure you talk about potential problems you could encounter, and promise to keep the lines of communication open in case things start to go south.

Get it in writing. Even if you know in your heart you have the perfect partner, you still need a written partnership agreements are key. What happens if one partner wants to leave, retire or sell his or her share of the company? Make an appointment with a business expert at SCORE to get help in drafting the agreement. 

Partner