Partnering with the Right People

Picking a partnerOne of the most difficult aspects of business is finding good partners for your business.  One of the struggles is finding people who are smart, ambitious, and hardworking, as well as trustworthy and having integrity.

I have had experiences in which potential opportunities arise, but I cannot easily determine the honesty and integrity of the individuals involved.  I have found it is best to pass on these opportunities.  As the saying goes, sometimes the best deals are the deals you don’t do.

I believe one common denominator with people who, for lack of a better term will screw you, is a level of narcissism.  Narcissistic people are people who view the world as it pertains to them, or otherwise stated they lack empathy.

With that being said, you want to partner with people who have a strong sense of empathy. Empathy alone is not enough.  Some people do have a strong sense of empathy, but use it for self-serving purposes.  This is why you need someone who also believes in or is motivated by a sense of reciprocity.

I wholeheartedly believe that reciprocity is the cornerstone of all relationships. Every healthy relationship needs to provide benefits to both people involved, regardless of whether it is a marriage, friendship or business partnership.  If one person feels that they contribute more (perception is reality) then this will inevitably build resentment.

There needs to be a commitment to being forthcoming, direct, and honest about ones feelings.  A partnership like a marriage needs constant communication.  If you have someone who does not voice their concerns regularly then they can be dealt with and there will be problems.

When you combine openness, honesty, the ability to empathize, and a desire to reciprocate, then disputes can be remedied fairly because both partners can share their points of view and try to come to an understanding of the other’s position.

The question is how do you identify these traits in others? Here are some techniques I use when assessing people for a potential partnership.  Understand that there is no substitute for time.  The more time you spend with someone the more you learn about them.
Have a Conversation

Having a casual conversation can tell much about others.  Narcissists have a tendency to just talk about themselves, duh! To give an example, I have a close relative who I talk to on a regular basis.  I call to catch up with her and we generally talk for about a half hour to forty-five minutes.  In all the time I have talked to her she has never actually asked me what I do, or how work is going.  Meanwhile she has told me about every petty interaction that she has at her office.

This is someone who would be hard to partner with.  She is very smart, ambitious and hardworking, but I know that if we ever got into a dispute she would be unable to see where I was coming from and thus only vie to better her position.

Get in a Dispute

Granted, manufacturing a dispute is hard and I am not advocating you do so.  You can bring certain issues to a head and see how the other person reacts.  Do they get argumentative?  Do they let you talk and voice your opinion or position?  Do you see that they actually listen to your position and try to understand your point of view?  Do they acknowledge any areas that are true about your argument/position?  Do they acknowledge areas of common ground?  Do they reanalyze their position upon seeing it from your perspective?  Do they use bully tactics to gain compliance?

These are important questions, having good partners is most important when things go wrong.  Are you going to have someone who is going to work through those problems fairly, in a rational calm way or are they going to blame and battle you?

Sometimes something as simple as a debate over a controversial topic can spark this type of conversation.  From my experience I have debated many people on many highly emotional topics.  I have had great conversations with people who completely disagree with me in every way and I have had horrible conversations where people jump to personal attacks for no reason.

Of course you have to watch yourself and how you approach the topic.  Are you calm collected and focused on the issue or do you discuss the topic with derision, condescension and ad hominem remarks?  I am the first to admit that if someone comes at me in this manner I respond in kind.  Make sure you are not the one who starts a good conversation down a bad road.

Also, note if you never end up in a dispute with a person.  This could be a red flag as well.  You don’t necessarily want to do business with someone who will never stand up to you if their position differs from yours.

Give a Gift, See What Happens

Take a prospective partner to a nice dinner or give them some kind of thoughtful gift.  See how they react and see if they try and reciprocate later down the road.  If they make no attempt to reciprocate then that is a bad sign.

Talk to them About Past Dealings

I had some partners that I believed had a lot of bad luck. They seemed to always have terrible things happen to them and other people take advantage of them.  Over time though I started wondering why does this kind of stuff not happen to other people? Why do they have so much bad luck and drama surround them?

News flash, turns out, they were the problem.  It’s that simple.  If you work with these types of people no matter how much good you do for them once you do one thing wrong that will be the focus.  You will be the cause of their victimhood to someone else.

There is a reason bad stuff always seems to happen to these people.  They bring it upon themselves through there actions.  These types of people are also experts at soliciting sympathy from people.

If you notice that a prospective partner is constantly talking about how they have been victimized in the past, BEWARE!  Good business people are never victims.

Check into Them From Past Business Associates

Sometimes this is really the best way to find out about someone because the best scammers make you want to fool yourself.  I believe many sociopaths have some kind of empathy radar to seek out considerate people that they can use and abuse.

Know also that scumbags flock together.  It is a red flag if a prospective partner does business with people you know to be dishonest or shady.  They are either dishonest themselves or turn a blind eye to dishonest activities. You don’t want to work with someone like that

Check Yourself

You should know this already, but make sure you are honest, rational, empathetic, and value reciprocity.  If these are values that you live by not only is this how you should do business but living by these values will in itself attract good people to you or at the very least not scare them away.

This does not remove the necessity to be selective and discriminating with whom you associate because I believe these qualities also attracts the bad guys too.

No matter how good the prize they are trying to sell you is, it won’t be worth it in the end.  I believe that wholeheartedly because I have seen people win by associating with those types of people but ultimately lose in the end.

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