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How to Properly Vet a Potential Partner in Your Marketing Firm

If you’re thinking about adding a partner to your marketing firm, you should proceed with caution. The last thing you want is to select someone who is wrong for the job. Not only is this a waste of resources, but it can derail everything you’ve worked so hard to build. The solution is to carefully evaluate any potential partner before getting too far along.

Is a Partner Right for Your Business?

The very first issue you have to sort through is whether or not a business partner is even right for your business. There are certain situations where it makes sense to bring on a partner, and other scenarios where it can be a big mistake. Some of the potential advantages include:

  • Unique perspective. There’s power in having multiple viewpoints and perspectives in your company. When you add a partner, you may still make the final decision, but at least you have someone who can play devil’s advocate.
  • Financial advantages. Adding a partner may allow you to enjoy certain tax advantages that aren’t available to you as a sole proprietor. Do some research and find out what sorts of savings are possible.
  • Better allocation of talents. When you add a partner, you suddenly have someone else in the company who can handle the issues and responsibilities that aren’t in line with your talents. This makes the entire operation more efficient.

How to Properly Vet a Potential Partner in Your Marketing Firm

Adding a partner isn’t some perfect solution. In some cases, bringing on another person can actually be a mistake. Here are some potential disadvantages:

  • Less equity. When you bring on a partner, you have to give them a piece of the company. This obviously means you have less equity and will receive less when/if you eventually sell the company.
  • Potential for conflict. When you’re the only one in charge, you don’t have to worry about conflict. There’s no one to disagree with you. However, as soon as you add a partner with a unique perspective, you introduce the possibility of conflict. This has the potential to hurt your business moving forward.
  • Negative reputation. When you have a partner, anything they say or do ultimately reflects on the business (and you). Should they make a mistake or end up in the middle of an unfortunate situation, this can harm your reputation.

Adding a partner isn’t cut and dry. You have to evaluate your business and consider any moving parts in play. If, after considering all circumstances, you decide that a partner is right, you can then shift your focus to evaluate your options.

4 Tips for Proper Vetting

Once you determine that you do indeed need/want a partner in your marketing firm, you have to immediately turn your attention towards finding the right partner. Here are some strategic tips for carefully vetting candidates:

#1. Do Some Background Research

Everything starts with some in-depth background research. While you may be tempted to take a potential partner at their word, it pays to be a little more detailed in your approach. Anything you find out now will help you make a better decision in the days and weeks to come. Here are some things you must do:

  • Basic background search. You can conduct a background search on someone using some basic internet tools. This will give you access to basic information like criminal history, education and employment records, credit history, driving records, and even civil history.
  • Internet search. In addition to a background search, you should Google potential partners and do a little of your own sleuthing. This could reveal information that isn’t officially recorded in a background check.
  • Bank account search. Finally, you may want to conduct a bank account search. With a bank account search, you can see what sort of assets a person has and find out if they’re being totally honest and forthcoming with you.

With the right resources, all three of these searches are easy to conduct. There’s no excuse for failing to gather as much intelligence as possible.

#2. Carefully Evaluate Referrals

You obviously need to get referrals for any candidate that you’re seriously considering, but don’t stop there. Each referral needs to be carefully analyzed in order to understand their connection.

Often, people will include friends or family members on their list of referrals and attempt to label them as co-worker, superior, or boss. In these situations, the referral is biased (and essentially useless). Do yourself a favor and get the bottom of every referral relationship before accepting what they say as truth.

#3. Ask the Right Questions

Your ability to probe a candidate and ask the right questions will make all the difference in understanding who they are and whether or not they could possibly be a good partner.

Ultimately, you want to get down to their motivation. Is the potential partner looking to join so he can make a lot of money and retire comfortably? Or is he genuinely looking to grow the business and build a brand that everyone can be proud of? Don’t assume the answers to questions like these.

#4. Conduct a Trial Period

There’s no rule that says you have to bring on a partner and start working right away. In fact, it’s smart to ease into things with a little trial period.

“Partnership decisions will always include a few gray areas,” entrepreneur Nicole Munoz admits. “Try to think of a project that will allow you to test the waters before you fully commit to a merger. You want to make absolutely sure that the partnership will not dilute your brand, and that the revenue proposal, in reality, is as solid as it seems on paper projections.”

Put the Business First

As a business owner, it’s often difficult to separate your own desires from what’s best for the business. Before going through the process of adding a partner, you have to consider whether it makes sense for the business, or if you just want to make things easier on yourself at this moment.

Only you can determine the answer.


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Jenna is a freelance writer and business consultant who covers business, technology, and entrepreneurship. She's lectured for several universities, and worked with over 100 businesses over the course of the last 15 years. Follow her on Twitter.

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