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Start Your Business Success Stories

Character Over Skill: How I Knew I'd Found the Right Business Partner

Character Over Skill: How I Knew I'd Found the Right Business Partner Credit: Choozle

As an entrepreneur, at some point you'll have to decide whether a potential business partner is a good match for you.  

For Jeff, my business partner and co-founder of Choozle, that moment was six years ago, shortly after we met. My brother-in-law, whose kids went to the same school as Jeff's, suggested we meet because we "both work in the internet."

We decided to grab lunch, and as I was leaving after our chat, I saw an older woman fall in front of the restaurant. Jeff watched as I stopped to help her up, and my display of character impressed him right away.

After that initial meeting, Jeff and I began having lunch once a week at Mimi's Cafe, which was halfway between our homes. We didn't know what type of business we were going to build at that point – we simply got together on a weekly basis and brainstormed business ideas and models. In effect, we were "dating" before committing to a long-term business relationship.

These sessions enabled us to align and explore our complementary skillsets, business goals and various tactics and strategies. More importantly, however, it allowed Jeff and me to get to know each other, both personally and professionally.

Character trumps skill when finding the right business partner. People in a business partnership need to be compatible; sharing values is imperative to a productive and amicable partnership.  

So how can you find a quality business partner that matches your need and expectations as an entrepreneur? Follow these tips.

Your gut instincts will have something to say about a potential partner – listen to them.

From early on, Jeff and I trusted each other. He trusted me to take on the numbers side of the enterprise, including raising capital and planning the business structure; and I trusted him to build our product.

As the business grows, ask yourself if you trust your partner with your livelihood. The more effort you invest, the greater the stakes for both of you.

You shouldn't commit to a business partnership with someone you don't get along with.

That's not to say Jeff and I never argue. We have our share of momentary contention. Our working styles are distinct: I'm tactful and overly self-aware; Jeff's forthright. But despite our differences, we're able to move forward because of our solid foundation of trust and respect.

As Choozle started to take off, we set out to define the company culture. Like a person's character, culture is difficult to change once it's set. I was conscious of this and pushed us to create an environment that was positive, fun, respectful and growth-oriented.

Once we were aligned, the vision and values he and I share naturally translated as we began to develop our team. It became the kind of company we wanted to grow.

You want to make sure your skillsets complement each other. Working with numbers and planning infrastructure are my areas of expertise, while Jeff has technical and creative skills that I lack. Knowing where our strengths lie makes it easy for us to divide and conquer the big stuff.

Complementary skills are key, but a personality fit is even more important for overall growth and productivity (and your sanity). Maybe you're searching for a partner with technical skills - the person you have in mind is a great personality match but doesn't know the preferred coding language. That doesn't mean you should discount them. Instead, see if they have the ability and drive to learn a new coding application.

The bottom line? Skills can be learned. Aptitude and personality, however, are hard wired. Choose someone you can work with for more than 12 hours a day.

About the author: Andrew Fischer is the CEO and co-founder of Choozle, a self-service programmatic digital marketing platform which now powers media execution for over 800+ global advertisers. Prior to Choozle, Andrew co-founded and built the RGM Alliance. Andrew holds a BA in Economics from Vanderbilt, and an MBA from UCLA's Anderson School of Business. Connect with him on LinkedIn and @AndrewFischer_1 on Twitter.

Edited for brevity and clarity by Sammi Caramela.