It doesn’t matter if you have the best business idea or are overflowing with funding — if you don’t have good business relationships, then your business cannot sustain success. Toxic business partnerships can quickly destroy a company.

Developing strong business partnerships takes an understanding of people’s emotional needs and a commitment to developing trust. Here are six qualities to look for in potential partners in order to foster a strong working relationship.

1. Supportiveness

You and your business partners need to know deep down that you have each other’s backs. “When people feel supported in a partnership they become inspired to more clearly visualize the process of achieving a goal,” says psychologist Sherrie Campbell. Make sure you and your partner believe in each other’s talents, values and objectives. Supportive business partnerships sustain collaboration and motivation to work toward a common purpose.

2. Gratifying

Business partnerships are difficult to maintain unless they feel gratifying when working together. When vetting partners, think about if it would be rewarding personally and professionally to come together to create a new company. You should be able to see the satisfaction in working with someone who adds value and significance to a shared vision. It’s also a good sign if you think it would be fulfilling to help a potential partner realize his or her full potential.

3. Morale Boosting

Starting a new company can entail many setbacks and disappointments. The best business relationships are able to maintain high morale even in the face of defeat. Campbell recommends paying attention to the silence and empty spaces among partners to gage the mood of the relationship. Is there a reflective and relaxed atmosphere? Or is it filled with tension and anxiety?

Also, there will be times when morale is low, so make sure your partners feel comfortable being honest with each other about behaviors that aren’t working. If you and your partners can listen and communicate openly and non-judgmentally, that goes a long way when sustaining morale.

4. Integrity

Trust will make or break your business relationships. If you have any reservations about your partners’ integrity — or they have reservations about yours — good decision making will start to fall apart. “You literally need to be ready to trust this person with your life and the lives of all of your employees,” says Logan Chierotti, co-founder and COO of “You need to feel utterly comfortable with the idea that you could leave your business in your partners’ hands for a week or a month without creating any major disasters.”

5. Passion

If you or your partner don’t have similar levels of passion about a business, it’s not easy to maintain a strong working relationship. Shared enthusiasm over business ideas fuel ambition and creativity. Ilya Pozin, founder of  Pluto TV, Coplex and Open Me, says that “a great partner is a person you can call at 3 a.m. who will pick up the phone at that hour to listen to your idea with nearly the same amount of excitement.”

6. Commitment

Finally, make sure you understand commitment levels in a potential partner. Strong business relationships don’t require all partners to invest equal amounts of time and energy to start a company. People have other commitments that are also important to them. But it’s important to set expectations at the very beginning of business partnerships to clarify what everyone’s individual commitment will be – otherwise, you could find yourself constantly fighting over who is doing more work. To settle disputes, Pozin suggests setting the equity each partner gets proportionate to the commitment level of each partner.

Remember, investors most likely care more about the strength of your business partnerships than the strength of your business ideas. Once you’ve found the people you want to work with, contact an UpCounsel contracts and business agreements attorney to set up the foundation for productive and successful business relationships.


Photo: “Business Partnership” by IECS Private Unlimited, as seen within International Enterprise Consulting & Services

About the author

Alex Liu

Alex Liu

Alex began his career as a scientific legal consultant and then as a journalist researching and reporting on health policy and health sciences. At UpCounsel, he enjoys researching and analyzing data to help businesses make informed decisions. In his free time, Alex is working on a documentary.

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