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10 illuminating questions to ask before partnering with someone

Source: The Business Journals

In business, it’s important to get to know someone as an individual before entering into any kind of partnership. If you understand a person and their motivations, and if you know you can work well with them, the relationship is much more likely to be fruitful for both parties. Whether you’re talking with a prospective client, investor, employee or even a vendor, you won’t regret taking the time to get to know them before moving forward. Below, members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share 10 illuminating questions you should ask someone before partnering with them.

1. ‘Describe yourself in five words.’ I commonly ask them to describe themselves in five single words, without using phrases or sentences. This gives me a good idea of their key traits and whether they would make a compatible business partner. I look for traits like introspection, humility, confidence, integrity and decisiveness. The time it takes them to generate the list is also important — it shouldn’t be too fast or too slow. – Larry Walker, Modular Assembly Innovations

2. ‘What do you value in a partner?’ I like to ask two questions: “What do you value in a partner?” and “Describe your company’s culture.” I find both are important for me to get a better idea of our ability to work together. I want to partner with cultures that I know won’t create issues. I also want to make sure the potential partner is as driven as we are. In responses, I’m looking for genuine answers versus a sales-crafted response. – Joe Hellman, Redpath and Company

3. ‘What motivates you?’ It’s important to understand the “why” of someone before you work with them, regardless of the exact capacity. What motivates people and what they hope to achieve through their work determines, to a large extent, how dedicated they are and how hard they will work on your common initiatives. You want to make sure that you partner with people who are equally driven. – Peter Abualzolof, Mashvisor

4. ‘What do you want most in life?’ I always like to ask, “What do you want most in life?” This question has many benefits. It helps you determine how much time and effort they are willing to invest in something. It lets you know whether they have long-term goals or if they just want money now. It lets them know that they won’t be judged for what their answer is, and it can give you insight into the type of person they are. – Cody McLain, ScentSNAP

5. ‘What will a successful outcome to our partnership look like?’ It’s key to define expectations and agree on what a successful outcome to your partnership would look like. This way, you know you are aligned and working toward the same goal, instead of following different paths. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

6. ‘Share a time when you did something for someone else.’ My favorite question to ask a potential partner to gauge their ethics, morals and general character is this: “Share a time when you did something for someone else that made a meaningful impact, without their knowledge or with the understanding that nobody else would ever know about it.” I’ve seen CEOs make anonymous donations or pay restaurant tabs for people who are in a bad place, without saying a word to anyone. – Kent Lewis, Deksia

7. ‘What do you do outside of work?’ I like to find out what someone likes to do outside of work. Work is important, but people aren’t their jobs. Knowing what people care enough to spend their time doing outside of work gives you perspective on their values, personality and vibe. It’s also fun to find areas of common interest outside of the office. You might have just found a new tennis opponent or fellow coffee connoisseur. – Rob Erickson, Massive Mission 8. ‘What was your previous partnership like?’

I would ask them about their previous partnership. “What it was like? What were the challenges? Why did (or didn’t) it work out?” The answers will tell a lot about the person. If they are humble enough to admit their role in things — both good and bad — you know they are the right partner to do business with. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

9. ‘What is your communication style?’ I like to know about a potential partner’s communication style and preferences. It helps establish expectations on both sides. I also look at the makeup of their leadership and staffing to gauge values alignment. – Megan Crook, AltCap

10. ‘What are your personal values?’ I want to know what they stand for, what their personal values are and what values they perceive this company to have. If our values align, we can conquer the world. If our values don’t align, we will not last very long! I would want to know the individual’s personal vision statement, their personal values, their “why” and what they are fighting for. – David Wescott, Transblue

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